Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How to Study the Bible (Part 3)

We began by trying to understand what 1 Timothy 2:12 means. To do that we pulled together the verse that form the paragraph around it. But that paragraph begins with a backwards reference to the previous paragraph, “in like manner.” Looking at the previous verses, we see that Paul is talking about the need to pray for our leaders. It appears he could be talking about both men and women praying until he gets to verse eight, “It is my will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting.”

It is my opinion that Paul is drawing a connection between the men “lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting” and the women being modest, shamefaced and soberminded. I don’t think he is saying that men should pray and not do good works or that women should do good works and not pray, but it appears the emphasis is on the men praying and the women doing good works.

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.

As we look at this paragraph again, we begin to see that there is a linkage between the modesty Paul mentions and the offending verse eleven and twelve. In fact, verse eleven, “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection,” can be taken to have similar wording. The word translated as “silence” here is used also to refer to one who stays at home doing his work rather than being a busybody or “quietness” (2 Thessalonians 3:12). So now we’re beginning to run into more questions that we need to answer before we can understand what 1 Timothy 2:12 means. Like, what does “silence” actually mean here? In what environment is this silent learning to take place? Is it in the assembly? Is it at home? Is it both? Is “the woman” the wife or any woman?

These are questions that we’re not going to answer from just looking at this paragraph. A good question to ask at this point is why Paul was writing this letter to Timothy. If we understand what Paul was trying to get Timothy to do, maybe we can understand how this paragraph is needed in order to allow Timothy to do that.

Once again, that discussion will have to wait until tomorrow, but as an activity you can go back and read the first chapter of First Timothy to look for the purpose of the letter. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

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