Friday, March 6, 2009

Reading With Common Sense

“When I was in seminary, one of my favorite professors, John Sailhamer, programmed into our heads that Scripture itself contains the most important clues to inform us today of the historical situation in which the books of Bible were written. He told us that he spent eight years formally studying ancient Near Eastern history at the University of Southern California only to find out that he didn’t need such an exotic education in order to read the Scriptures with understanding. It was mainly under his influence that I began to read the Bible anew, paying close attention to the clues that are there in the text.

ALMOST EVERY LINE OF SCRIPTURE GIVES US HINTS ABOUT THE HISTORICAL SITUATION.Sometimes it tells us what the people needed to be reminded of, and sometimes it tells us what they needed to be taught for the first time. IN MANY CASES, IT TELLS US SPECIFICALLY WHAT THE RECIPIENTS OF THE TEXT WERE THINKING OR DOING. For instance, in Galatians, when Paul said to the churches, ‘Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another’ (Galatians 5:26), we can safely guess that Christians in Galatia were competing, not cooperating, with each other” (Sarah Sumner, “Men and Women in the Church,” pp.236-37).

Sumner, once again, helps us see that hermeneutics itself, while sounding like a fancy exercise, really isn’t—the average person CAN read the Bible with understanding and make sense of Scripture. As a Protestant, I stand behind Martin Luther in this regard and proclaim that the average person can read the Bible with understanding.

1 Timothy 2 is no exception to this rule. The chapter can be read with understanding and the chapter can make sense to the person in the pew as well as the Professor in the seminary. But sometimes, I fear that believers have gotten so engrossed in seminaries and Bible colleges all across the country, that the simple techniques for Bible reading have gone neglected—and in most cases, forgotten.

What is the story behind 1 Timothy 2:13-14? Paul gives the prohibition against women in 2:12, but then provides a justification for so doing in verses 13 and 14. The reason why I would like to spend time on this is because so much discussion has been paid to these two verses. The traditional argument will tell you that by virtue of Adam’s being the head of creation and Eve’s deception, that the male should be the only one to lead in the church. As I’ve stated before, however, if you approach the text from this standpoint, you’ve got to affirm that all women everywhere—at all ages and at all times—will be more prone to deception than men are. And if you make that argument, then you’re stomped by the fact that 1 Peter 3 refers to women as having a “weaker” vessel—which doesn’t EXCLUDE men from being physically weak either! If you wanna read the rest of my discussion on 1 Peter 3, please see my blog post called “Schreiner’s Biological Argument Overturned” under the section at my blog called “Philosophical Factors” (

On to our task—of finding out what verses 13 and 14 of this controversial chapter of 1 Timothy are all about…

12(A) I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13(B) For Adam was formed first,(C) then Eve; 14and Adam was not deceived, but(D) the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15Yet she will be saved through(E) childbearing—if they continue in(F) faith and love and holiness, with self-control. (1 Timothy 2:12-15, ESV).

Looking at verses 13 and 14, the common misconception (as noted above) has prevailed. But I think we miss Paul’s argument because we focus so much on ANALYZING the text—we’re always so preoccupied with what the text MEANS, instead of what the text SAYS. Oftentimes, our need to find the meaning without knowing the saying leads us into all types of interpretive complications that could be avoided if we read the text for what it is.

I don’t think I need to remind you that verses 13 and 14 are a reference to Genesis. Everyone on both sides of the debate—whether complementarians or egalitarians—affirm that both verses allude to Genesis 3, the Fall. Let’s pair up verses 13 and 14 with Genesis 3:

1 Timothy 2:13— “For Adam was formed first, then Eve;

Genesis 2:7—“Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”

Genesis 2:22—“And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.”

1 Timothy 2:13 argues a set creation order, but all it does is ECHO the creation order that is recorded in Genesis 2—Paul never comments on the creation order. All the commentaries and books I have read that seek to COMMENT on this creation order add to the text. Paul doesn’t say that Eve was formed second and that made her inferior, or Eve was formed second and that makes her less able to lead. These are all presuppositions of tradition that are not demonstrated in the text.

Next, let’s look at 1 Timothy 2:14 and pair it up with its parallel reference in Genesis:

1 Timothy 2:14--14and Adam was not deceived, but(D) the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

Genesis 2:16,17—16And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil(A) you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat[a] of it you(B) shall surely die."

Genesis 3:13—13Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" The woman said,(A) "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

Why does Paul write, “And Adam was not deceived”? I think Sarah Sumner hits on something vital when she tells us that, from what we read, we can infer the situation. Paul is having to defend Eve being deceived, but Adam NOT being deceived. Why is that, when Genesis NEVER states that Adam was deceived? The reason? Because there was a following in the church at Ephesus (most likely the women) who argued that Adam was deceived instead of Eve!

According to the philosophical concept called “Ockham’s Razor,” the answer to challenging passages of Scripture can be solved with the following: “The easiest answer is ALWAYS the best explanation.” Complementarians have sat around for years wringing their heads, striving to find a way to justify Paul’s reference to Genesis; but I think they’ve wasted so much time analyzing a passage that Paul didn’t analyze. Paul doesn’t write to ANALYZE—he writes to DEFEND! Paul quotes Genesis to uphold the Law in a church where the Law was being abused because of “myths and endless genealogies” (1 Timothy 1).

So how would I interpret 1 Timothy 2:12-15? As the text SAYS. Women should not teach that they are “authentein” (to be the origin) of man. Why? Because Genesis tells us otherwise: “Adam was first formed, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” Adam was the origin of mankind and Eve was deceived. Genesis records this—and so does Paul’s letter to Timothy.

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