Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Problem with Silence in 1 Tim 2:12

ἡσυχία is an interesting word, usually translated as "silent" in 1 Tim 2:12.  But this seems an unlikely translation, as a brief tour of the lexical data will show.  BDAG, #3463 describes the concept with the following: 
1. state of quietness without disturbance, quietness, rest (Diod. S. 4, 2, 2 opp. to accompaniment of thunder and lightning; 16, 13, 2 without any fanfare; 18, 9, 3 without experiencing disturbance; Diog. L. 9, 21 of a quiet scholar’s life w. implied contrast of being engaged in public affairs; Pind., P. 1, 70  ‘to harmonious peace’ among citizens; Jos., Ant. 18, 245 opp. bustle of city life)  Hm 5, 2, 6 (TestAbr A 1 p. 77, 3 [Stone p. 2]). Of living in a way that does not cause disturbance (Mel., HE 4, 26, 6) 2 Th 3:12; Sotades 6, 8f [Coll. Alex. p. 241]; in Diod. S. [s. above] and SIG 1109, 64f of an injunction to bit-players in a cultic drama not to overplay or ‘ham it up’; UPZ 8, 17 [161 BC]; BGU 614; Sir 28:16). to have respite from someth. ApcPt 17:32.
2. state of saying nothing or very little, silence (Pla., Ep. 2, 312c; Pr 11:12; Philo, Rer. Div. Her. 14; Jos., Ant. 3, 67) IEph 15:2. in silence (Philo, Somn. 2, 263) 1 Ti 2:11f; IEph 19:1. quiet down, give a hearing (cp. Jos., Ant. 5, 235; cp. Just., D. 115, 5) Ac 22:2 (is it prob. that here such concepts as ‘reverence’, ‘devotion’, ‘respect’ may have some influence? Cp. Dio Chrys. 68 [18], 10: Herodotus should be read ‘with much respect’). 21:40 D (cp. Dio Chrys. 13 [7], 26; Philo, Vi. Cont. 75).—Schmidt, Syn. IV 248-64. DELG s.v. M-M. TW. Spicq. Sv. 
Louw-Nida #3050 make similar comments:  ἡσυχία: a state of undisturbed quietness and calm - 'quiet circumstances, undisturbed life.'  

We should note that ἡσυχία is not usually used to refer to “silence” in Paul’s letters, but rather “calmness” and the absence of disruption (1 Thess 4:11; 2 Thess 3:12; 1 Tim 2:2; cf. 1 Pet 3:4).[1]  In 1 Tim 2:2, the community is encouraged to live a ἡσύχιον βίον, which certainly does not mean a muted life, but rather one that is calm and peaceful, not disruptive and causing trouble.  Thus, it seems that something similar to BDAG option #1 is being advocated in 1 Tim 2:12.  The women who are deceived, are to cultivate an ability to learn in a calm and non-disruptive manner, obeying what is being taught.  In this way, they will learn the truth, which will affect the way they live.  This knowledge combined with praxis will ultimately *save* them (1 Tim 2:15).  Even in the second option provided by BDAG, the word appears to refer to not strict silence, but the demeanour of quietness and respect, of listening carefully.  Thus, either way, our writer is advocating a position of calm, non-disruptive learning.  This is especially focussed on those who are deceived, and those who are sharing the false teaching in this Christian community (1 Tim 5:13-15).  This injunction is thus aimed directly at those women who have been causing trouble in the community, the men having already been excommunicated (1 Tim 1:20).  

It is not enough to merely read the various bold options given in BDAG.  We must carefully sift through how the word is used by various writers and understand the concept to which it refers.  And in this case, the concept does not strictly refer to pure silence, but rather the demeanour and character of those who are calm, non-disruptive, not making a fuss but learning respectfully.  

[1] When Paul does want to refer to “silence” he uses a different word, σιγάω, found in Rom 16:25; 1 Cor 14:28, 30, 34.

No comments: