Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Contextual Summary on Why Paul Prohibited Women Teaching in 1 Tim 2:12

Paul’s letter to Timothy and it’s various instructions must be understood within the context within which it was written. The letter itself provides most of the evidence needed to reconstruct the problem, and understand Paul’s instructions within that context. Paul is writing to Timothy to deal with a serious problem of false teaching and those who are spreading it (1:3-4; 6-7; 19-20). A careful reading of the letters to Timothy reveal that Paul describes these false teachers in strikingly similar ways to the way certain women are described.

In 1:4, the problem is various “myths” (μύθοις) and in 4:7 “myths” (μύθους) characterise some of the old women. In 1:4, the false teachers “promote controversies” and in 5:14 the widows are instructed not to give an enemy opportunity for slander, with 3:11 stating “women must … not be malicious talkers.” Then in 1:6 “some persons (τινες) want to be teachers of the law but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.” While in 2:14 Paul notes that, “the woman are thoroughly deceived.”

The problem is acutely stated in 1 Tim 5:13 which describes certain women as, “going about from house to house… talking nonsense, saying things they ought not …” The same situation is described in 2 Tim 3:6-7, where the writer notes that there are those, “who make their way into households and take captive ignorant women.” In 4:1: “some persons (τινες) will follow deceiving spirits of things taught by demons” and in 5:15 “already some [younger widows] have turned away to follow Satan.” They have, according to 5:11 “set aside their first faith.”

Thus when Paul states the problem in the opening verse 1:3: “certain persons (τισὶν) teach false doctrines” he has in mind that there are false teachers who have persuaded certain women to believe their false teaching and they are now spreading that false teaching. Paul’s response to this is clear in 2:11, “let a woman receive instruction with submissiveness … without disruption” and 2:12: “I am not permitting a woman to teach.” The reason for this is abundantly clear: Women have been deceived, just like the example of Eve in 2:14. Paul’s instruction is that they should receive instruction and not be allowed to presently teach because what they are teaching is false and dangerous. Paul offers a temporary injunction on women teaching so that they can learn the truth of the gospel.

I imagine that after they have learned, they would resume normal teaching responsibilities as did Phoebe in Romans 16:1; Priscilla in Acts 18:26; and implied in her apostolic status, Junia in Romans 16:7.

1 comment:

VC said...

Until I found a new book, Cover-Up: How the Church Silenced Jesus's True Heirs, I had not ideaof how prominent women were in the early church. For instance, I had never heard of the New Testament apostle, Junia, possibly because the church tried to turn her into a male: Junius (there's no such name).But what's fascinating is that the Jewish followers of Jesus, the subject of the book, seem to have influenced later groups such as the 10th century Cathars and the later Lollards where women as well as men played leading roles. Although this is not the main thesis of the book, the author has thoughtfully provided an appendix covering the subject of empowered women starting with Jesus’s women disciples (such as Mary Magdalene). I think this is a very exciting read. I found it at: