The last post, “Guilty as Charged,” spent time looking at 1 Peter 3 and how Peter’s discussion of dress referred to the behavior of the women and character of the heart. I spent some time going through the text of 1 Timothy 2 to show that it too, relates to the behavior of the women as well as their character of the heart. In this post, we will continue to exegete the text of 1 Timothy 2 and see what we can find that will aid us in our interpretation.
Then comes Paul’s prohibition: “But I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet” (v. 12, ESV).
Notice here that there is a “de” in the Greek, meaning “but” or “now.” This word always shows a CHANGE of something, whether it’s a change of time or the subject being discussed. Paul has allowed women to learn, but they cannot teach. It seems that in Ephesus, the women there were not learning QUIETLY, WITH ALL SUBMISSIVENESS—instead, they were causing commotion during instruction. Sarah Sumner stated in a post I placed under the “Hermeneutics” section of the blog that whenever Paul prohibits something or tells someone not to do something, he is responding to THE CURRENT SITUATION OF THE CHURCH TO WHICH HE WRITES. So, if he’s telling them to learn quietly and fully submit to what is being taught, then we know they aren’t. If he’s telling them to practice self-control, then we can imagine they aren’t. They don’t know how to dress properly, and they don’t know how to act properly in the house of God. This is why Paul states in 1 Timothy 3:14-15,
14I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.
Paul’s concern with Timothy (and therefore, his congregation) is that they know proper behavior in God’s house. This implies that there is a CORRECT WAY to behave: not just any behavior will do.
These women are not learning with submissiveness, they are not submitting to their teachers, so they are unlearned and are bold about things which are heretical and false (1 Timothy 1:7). This is what happens when someone thinks they have the truth—they often fail to listen to those who may differ from them.
This idea of learning quietly is very similar to the situation of the Corinthian women in 1 Corinthians 14, where Paul tells the women to learn at home, and to maintain quietness in the church. The women at Ephesus, though, can’t seem to be quiet about what they “think” they know. Paul realized that if their teaching was wrong, with a bad attitude to go with it, the Ephesian women could end up doing more harm than good. Their situation is very much like a baby with a mousetrap. The baby has no idea how to set a mousetrap; if he tries, what’s going to happen? The baby will get his fingers stuck in the trap, and he might get a terrible injury from the trap’s snap. The baby handling a mousetrap WILL HURT the baby!
And this is what a teaching position will do for UNLEARNED people—it will be the “mousetrap” upon which they “get their fingers caught” and will hurt themselves and indoctrinate others with error.
As we’ve seen, in both passages of 1 Peter 3 and 1 Timothy 2, the issue of outward/inner dress has been the major emphasis. Grudem and Piper note the similarities:
“Now we know Peter is not condemning the use of clothes. He is condemning the misuse of clothes. This suggests, then, that the same thing could be said about gold and braids. The point is not to warn against something intrinsically evil, but to warn against its misuse as an expression of self-exaltation or worldly-mindedness.”
When it comes to both texts, the clothing is being addressed because “the point is not to warn against something INTRINSICALLY EVIL, but to warn against its MISUSE as an expression of self-exaltation or worldly-mindedness.”
In 1 Timothy 2, the issue regarding braids and gold refers to overdressing. According to Grudem and Piper, there’s nothing wrong with wearing these—so here, no one needs to interpret this to wage war against wearing such things today (this is theoretical, not applicable). However, when it gets to women teaching, what do Grudem and Piper say?
"Add to this that the commands concerning headship and submission are rooted in the created order (in 1 Timothy 2:13-14) while the specific forms of modesty are not. This is why we plead innocent of the charge of selective literalism."
Piper and Grudem now discuss “headship and submission,” two terms of which ONLY submission is mentioned. Nothing about these two verses discusses or even mentions headship. Yet and still, Piper and Grudem seem to use their male headship rhetoric to its full extent.
Next, they appeal to “created order.” Because of the created order, Adam coming before Eve, then women should not be over men in the church.
But Stanley Grenz hits the nail on the head when he speaks regarding created order:
“Rather than appealing to Adam’s firstborn status as the basis for a permanent male-dominated hierarchy, Paul declares that in Christ the creation order of woman coming FROM man is balanced by women giving birth TO men (1 Cor. 11:11-12). These precedents in the Pauline literature lead E. Margaret Howe to wonder, ‘It is hard to imagine, then, why the priority in time REFLECTED IN THE SECOND CREATION NARRATIVE would carry the significance attributed to it in 1 Timothy 2:13’” (Stanley Grenz, “Women in the Church,” page 136).
I won’t go into the details of 1 Corinthians 11, but I’ll say here that Paul levels the idea of first created by showing that today, the woman is FIRST—for it is she who gives birth to the man (not coming from the man). Therefore, when it comes to the Corinthian women wearing head coverings, Paul doesn’t argue for the convention because there is NO BIBLICAL BASIS IN CREATION that mandates women wearing them.
In my post on “Primogeniture Revisited,” I stated that there was no “law of primogeniture” which mandated Adam having authority as a male. Adam was simply created by God first and as the first human had privileges and responsibilities. But, if complementarians are too blind to see their error in Genesis, why can’t they open their eyes to the truth of 1 Corinthians 11? That is a text that I will cover next time.