Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How to Study the Bible (Part 2)

Last time I asked you to consider what you want 1 Timothy 2:12 to mean. Depending on what you’ve been taught, here are a few things you might want it to mean:
  • Women can’t preach or teach in the church.
  • Women can’t argue with their husbands.
  • Women shouldn’t disagree with their husbands at church.
  • Women can teach, but only women and children.
  • Women can teach men, as long as their husbands aren’t in the class.
  • Paul just found it painful to listen to women teach.
  • This has nothing to do with women today.
  • This deals with the home and not the church.
I’m sure there are many others, but the important thing is that you don’t try to force this passage to mean what you want it to. It may mean what you want it to, but be open to the possibility that you are wrong.

A good place to start with understanding a verse is to look for the complete thought. The verse and chapter markings are not part of scripture. They are there to aid us in finding passages, but they often create breaks in paragraphs and even sentences. Paul wrote this as a letter to Timothy. It would be better if we were to look at it in paragraph form without verse and chapter divisions. To understand verse twelve, look at the verse around it and see if you can figure out which sentences should be included in the same paragraph. In a pinch, you can look for the paragraph markings in your Bible.

A likely paragraph division would be between 1 Timothy 2:8 and 1 Timothy 2:9. Verse nine continues the thought of verse eight, but it switches from talking about the men to talking about the women. Paul continues his discussion of the women all the way to the end of chapter two, but then he changes topics. That gives us the following in the 21st Century King James version:
In like manner also, that women should adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobermindedness, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly array, but, as becometh women professing godliness, with good works. Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived; but the woman, being deceived, was in the transgression. Notwithstanding, she shall be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobermindedness.
At this point, we have the relevant paragraph, but notice how this paragraph points back to the previous paragraph with the phrase, “in like manner.” In like manner or in the same fashion as what? We’ll discuss that tomorrow, but as an activity for today, see if you can figure out what Paul is referring back to. What in the previous paragraph is the modest apparel and such of women similar to? If you feel so compelled, please leave your thoughts on the subject in the comments.

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