“In the first-century situation with its generally patriarchal society, where women played little part in public affairs, teaching by women could be regarded as an unacceptable breach of behavior patterns, whether among Jews or also among some Gentiles. ACCORDINGLY, THE RESTRICTION CAN BE INTERPRETED AS A CULTURALLY SHAPED PROHIBITION THAT IS NO LONGER BINDING IN A DIFFERENT SETTING. The difficulty is in the appeal to Scripture that is used to back up the prohibition. It has a twofold argument that Adam was created prior to Eve (and therefore is superior), and that it is Eve who was deceived by the serpent (with the implication that women are still more likely to be deceived than men). THIS SEEMS TO BE A DOCTRINAL RATHER THAN A CULTURAL CONSIDERATION AND IS DECISIVE FOR THOSE WHO BELIEVE THAT THE AUTHORITY OF A PASSAGE OF SCRIPTURE MUST BE ACCEPTED EVEN WHEN IT SEEMS TO RUN AGAINST THE GRAIN OF NT TEACHING GENERALLY (e.g., Gal. 3:28)” (I. Howard Marshall, “1 Timothy,” from “Theological Interpretation of the New Testament: A Book-by-Book Survey” by Kevin Vanhoozer, General Editor. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009, page 166).
Have you ever had a moment in which someone you admired or had great respect for said something that you disagreed with? I had that moment when reading the above quote. Marshall writes that the prohibition in 1 Timothy 2:12 could be interpreted as “a culturally shaped prohibition that is no longer binding...” These words trouble me greatly.
Now, I have to confess: I was raised in a very strict Christian home where the Bible was the infallible, inerrant, inspired, Word of God. No one questioned in my family that the Bible was the ultimate source of authority for godly living. But along with these presuppositions regarding Scripture was placed another presupposition: that is, that the words of Scripture themselves were always binding on God’s people; that is, that in every verse of Scripture, there was a principle that could be applied to contemporary living (as was the thought of two thousand years ago).
Imagine then, what I thought when I stumbled upon I. Howard Marshall’s words. I have great respect for Dr. Marshall. I read his work, own some of his work, and value him as a theologian and Greek scholar. But I disagree with interpreting 1 Timothy 2:12 as just a “culturally shaped prohibition.”
I think the problem with the universal principle behind 1 Timothy 2:12 involves how to take the prohibition, wrapped in its context, and “connect the bridge” (my hermeneutics professor once said) from the time of the first century to the twenty-first century. To discover the universal principle behind the verse, we must first accept the idea that the Scriptures are binding at all times, in all places. The universal binding of Scripture can be seen via two passages, 2 Timothy 3 and 2 Peter 1:
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NKJV).
“knowing this first, that NO PROPHECY OF SCRIPTURE IS OF ANY PRIVATE INTERPRETATION, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but HOLY MEN OF GOD SPOKE AS THEY WERE MOVED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT” (2 Peter 1:20-21).
2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that “all Scripture” is inspired and useful for “instruction in righteousness.” The word “all” in the Greek is “pas,” which, according to Thayer’s Dictionary means “individually, each, every, any, whole,” etc. The parts of Scripture comprise to create “all Scripture.” If this is the case, then everything that is said about “all Scripture” includes 1 Timothy 2:12. I’ll set up a syllogism:
1)”All Scripture” is inspired by God and useful.
2) 1 Timothy 2:12 is part of Scripture.
3) If all Scripture is divinely inspired and useful, and 1 Timothy 2:12 is a part of Scripture, then 1 Timothy 2:12 is divinely inspired and useful.
This being the case, we must find out what universal principle we can draw from the text itself. One of the main universal principles we can draw out of the text is to attack false teaching. In the immediate context of 1 Timothy 2 is 1 Timothy 1, where Paul gives Timothy his reason for leaving Timothy behind in Ephesus:
“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia---remain in Ephesus THAT YOU MAY CHARGE SOME THAT THEY TEACH NO OTHER DOCTRINE” (1 Timothy 1:1).
“knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate...and if there is any other thing that is CONTRARY TO SOUND DOCTRINE” (1 Tim. 1:9-10).
“desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm” (1 Tim. 1:7).
In the immediate context of chapter 2, the issue that plagues the church at Ephesus is false teaching. So, a universal principle could be, “contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) and put down the false teaching. Paul does this himself when he writes to Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:13-14, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” Here, Paul was setting the record straight: it was not Adam who was deceived (“Adam was not deceived”), it was Eve; and Adam was first in creation, not Eve (“Adam was formed first, then Eve”).
Now, by providing words above, I don’t mean to say that ONLY WOMEN who are teaching false doctrine should be put down. This is where I stand against many conservatives: I think that the Bible’s emphasis is to put down false teaching always, regardless of whether it comes from a man or a woman (1 Tim. 6:3-5; 1 Tim. 4; 2 Tim. 2:17-18; Titus 1:10-14 and Titus 2; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; Colossians 2:8-10; Galatians 3-5; Romans 11; etc).
Scripture seems to attack false teaching, from beginning to end. Even after the Pastorals (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus) there is attack made on false teaching in the letters of 2 Peter, Jude, and so on. I. Howard Marshall errs in his argument when he writes that the prohibition is possibly a “culturally-shaped” prohibition without a universally binding principle. If one believes the Bible to be the ultimate authoritative standard for the Christian life, then one must affirm the universally-binding principles of the Word of God. Someone who fails to affirm a universal principle in the teaching prohibition might feel the need someday to argue that the biblical teaching on the exclusivity of Christ as “The Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6) is only a temporary statement as well.