Monday, February 20, 2012

Adam in 1 Tim 2:13-14

The mention of these two figures in this passage has perplexed many interpreters.  While much of the focus has been on Eve, see here, I’ve recently been thinking through the function of Adam in this section. 

For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was wholly deceived and became a transgressor.

What does the temporal priority of Adam, that he was created first, have to do with anything in this passage?  And why is it important to note that Adam was not deceived?  If as we have suggested before, Eve provides us with a helpful paradigm for understanding the problem with some of the women in Ephesus, being deceived and thus transgressing, then I wish to suggest that Adam plays much the same role in this passage.  Keener provides a helpful insight by noting the following:
Paul intends to connect Eve’s later creation to why she was deceived: she was not present when God gave the commandment, and thus was dependent on Adam for the teaching.  In other words, she was inadequately educated – like the women in the Ephesian church.[1]  

Ben Witherington further comments on this issue by stating,
[T]he reason why Paul mentions that Adam was formed first, before he speaks about Eve, is to remind the audience of the context of the story in Genesis 2.  That story is quite clear that Adam alone was formed and was present for God’s original instructions about what was prohibited.  Eve was not there for proper divine instruction, and thus she was more susceptible to deception.[2]  

Both these writers hint at, though do not explore, the role that Adam plays in this story.  Adam provides another illustration of this situation in Ephesus, elders (those who were Christians for a long time, and thus temporally before others?), have not instructed the people well.  This has led to some of the women being deceived, which has led to transgressions.  The problem started with Adam, and his poor teaching.  Even though he was not deceived, it was partly due to him that Eve was deceived and transgressed. 

One may perhaps accuse this line of reasoning of reading too much into these two short verses, but that need not be the case.  Many commentators that I have consulted suggest two specific elements that need to be in play when reading this passage.  Firstly, that the story in Genesis 2-3 provides the matrix within which to read and understand these references.  Secondly, that Eve is an illustration or type of the women in Ephesus.  What I am proposing is that Adam is just as much in view in this story as is Eve.  I am proposing that the explanation offered for the prohibition in 2:12 accurately illustrates two central problems in Ephesus, bad teaching and deception.[3]  And this passage provides a warning to the Church in Ephesus, as well as an explanation for the prohibition offered in 2:12.  It is because of bad teaching and deception that Paul issues the injunction that women should not be teaching, but rather learning.  It also explains the insistence throughout these letters on "healthy" teaching, and "sound doctrine."  

Thoughts?  Comments?  Criticisms?  All welcome.  

[1] Keener, Paul, Women and Wives, 116.
[2] Witherington, A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John, 229.
[3] “[T]he conjunction gar (“for”) typically introduces an explanation for what precedes, not a cause.”  Belleville, “Teaching and Usurping Authority,” 222.  Italics original.


Craig L. Adams said...

I have no real comment, except to say that I appreciate the thinking you have been giving to this passage. You have helped me look at it anew.

Sean said...

Thanks for the encouragement Craig.