Thursday, October 25, 2007

Men and women's roles: 1 Timothy 2:8-15 part ii

A mono-dialogue
Continuing the conversation (Gen. 1-3)
The end of the conversation (but not really)
1 Timothy 2:8-15 (Part i)

Structure of 1 Timothy 2:8-15
v.8 the conduct expected of men
v.9-10 the dress code of women
v.11-12 an instruction for the woman
v.13-14 the reason/basis
v.15 who knows???

Diving in
So, in light of the love of God for the whole world which has just been stressed, Paul wants to remind the men that they should be prayerful people. That the warning is against anger and disputing possibly could be to do with the false or controversial teaching that probably resulted in church disputes or division. Think about it, how quickly do we drop to our knees in prayer every time we hear the rumblings of discontentment in church? In our eagerness to score points for our side, we often end up painting a rather unattractive picture of the church family. Our love for each other is obscured, or even worse, absent. What more of our love for our neighbour? Obviously, this doesn’t minimise the importance of doctrine, given what Paul is stressing throughout the entire letter, but the upholding of truth inevitably includes the way we live our lives.

Paul has already affirmed the truth of Christ Jesus, and that is what we should unite around. I think the way I’ve framed the whole issue makes sense because I think v.9-10 also has in mind church division, so v.8-10 makes a couplet. Obviously, this doesn’t mean that women can’t pray (eg. 1 Cor. 11:5). More likely, this could be the particular problem men faced in a situation of a divided church; reacting with anger or a contentious spirit is easier than getting down to the business of praying.

Similarly, the mission and thus, the conduct of the church are probably in Paul’s mind with regards to v.9-10. It isn’t that Paul is trying to institute some kind of draconian dress code. He is cautioning against self-indulgence, where such dress was a sign of extravagant luxury and would have sent wrong signals to the have-nots. No, Paul says, actually, if we want to make sure that people are receptive to the gospel, what should mark us out immediately are our good deeds. In other words, this would have been counter-cultural in a world where flaunting what we have is expected.

So we finally arrive at v.11-15. In light of what we’ve just learned, all of you should pray for me now. :)

The following three paragraphs draw heavily from the sermon I heard:

v.11. The word translated "quietness" here doesn’t mean total silence. (Again, we think of 1 Cor. 11:5). Rather, it simply means to have a quiet and peaceable spirit. Again, makes sense in light of the context of false teaching and church division. So there is no way any church can justify total silence on the part of the women. The word "submission" here is used in the same way in Ephesians 5, which I already mentioned in my three-way conversation with myself...errr, Alex and Casey. So again, it seems to me to hint at some form of order here, which makes sense in light of v.13-14.

v.12 "have authority over" here is not the term used to mean the normal exercise of authority, but rather another term which has negative connotations of usurping authority or being domineering. So Paul is stressing attitude and manner of learning. (Actually, I find it interesting that my pastor, a complementarian, opted for this, since I believe that the noted biblical scholar Andreas Kostenberger has actually argued for the former option on grammatical grounds convincingly enough that even many egalitarians have accepted his conclusions. However, it does not make a difference for my pastor’s overall argument, as the next paragraph will make clear. He and Kostenberger are essentially on the same page, I think, even if they don’t agree on this!)

In the sermon I heard, it was argued that v.11-12 is actually one sentence in the original, again, an assertion backed up by grammatical evidence. v.11 and 12 are not two separate instructions, but rather, one command. So, in other words, the command here is that a woman is not to teach in such a way that exercises authority over man. Now obviously, I am not at all qualified to evaluate such an argument! But the implications of this is simply that this should only be restricted to the church, and not to all situations, so one can’t use this passage to argue against women CEOs or Prime Ministers. I’m quite happy to accept this.

This command is grounded in creation (v.13-14), which suggests a universal application rather than a time-bound command. Paul also appeals to creation in 1 Cor. 11. How you take this depends on how you interpret Genesis 1-3. But it seems to me Paul is arguing by ascribing some significance to the order of creation here, and it’s hard to escape that without doing some fancy twisting, and I think the context of chapter 2 also lends this point credence. I also think that while v.14 can and has been interpreted misogynistically, i.e the woman is somehow more prone to deception, I would simply take it as a statement of fact. So I don’t buy the argument that the reason woman can’t teach is because she’s gullible. Instead, it’s better again, it seems to me, to take v.13-14 together, so that we see one factor in v. 14 happening – Eve sinning – is due to the irresponsibility of v.13, Adam, as designated head, fails to stop this. Again, this of course assumes a complementarian interpretation of Gen. 3.

As for v. 15, you can imagine no one quite knows what to make of this. My pastor suggests that it is possible that some have reasoned that, since, during the Fall, one of the effects of sin was the pain of childbearing, some false teachers could have been suggesting that to be redeemed meant that women no longer should suffer from pain. So if you were still undergoing pain in childbearing, you weren’t saved. So Paul wants to stamp out such patently false teaching. Rather, it is continuing in the faith which is important. I think it makes sense.

So that’s my reading, which is decidedly complementarian. But within this boundaries,
I think there is actually plenty of flexibility for women to get involved in ministry. I have happily sat under the teaching of women in Bible studies. I think the more I think of it, the more I am wanting to give full range of expression to women in ministry. I am still a little hesitant on women in the pulpit (is that teaching with authority?), but I know some complementarian churches have women preachers, as long as the overall leader is male. There still needs to be more thought on this, as egalitarians have often charged complementarians, rightly to my mind, with confusion over the exact parameters of what women can and cannot do in ministry.

I think the next post in this series will be the last; I haven't quite figured out what to say yet! Maybe that's a good thing. It'd be more general comments, though, so I hope the exercise of close(r) reading of the biblical texts, which ends here, has proven beneficial!

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