Thursday, May 19, 2011

How to Study the Bible (Part 4)

In coming to an understanding of 1 Timothy 2:12 we need to understand how it fits in the whole of the letter Paul wrote to Timothy. To understand the purpose of First Timothy, it helps to read the first chapter. What we find there is that Paul is encouraging Timothy to continue to teach people to teach sound doctrine, which is why he left him at Ephesus in the first place. He also warns him of those who would compel the believers to keep the law without understanding the purpose of the law.

So, the first thing Paul tells Timothy should be done is to pray for our governmental leaders. If we understand this letter to be telling Timothy what he should be doing to encourage teaching sound doctrine, the call for men to pray is the first task Paul gives Timothy. As we noted before, that leads into the instruction concerning women:
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.
So, it doesn’t clearly say that this applies only to the assembly or only at home. What we can say is that it may have something to do with promoting the teaching of sound doctrine and it may have something to do with the law. Considering the women of the old testament were not permitted to serve in the tabernacle in the way the men were, It is possible that those who were trying to apply the law to Christianity were calling for the women to be excluded from the listening to the teaching in the assembly. If that is the case, then verse eleven takes on a very different meaning. Instead of Paul putting the emphasis on them being silent, the emphasis would be on allowing the women to learn. “Let the woman learn…”

If we run with that idea, what then does verse twelve mean? If the point Paul was trying to get across is that the women should be allowed to learn, then verse twelve seems to be saying, “but let’s not go too far. If they aren’t disruptive, let them learn, but don’t permit them to teach or usurp authority over the man.” In that case, the application can only be to the assembly, since the law wouldn’t be made to tell the woman not to talk at home.

But we still don’t have enough to be certain. The statement about Adam being formed first almost implies it deals with husband and wife, though at the time Adam was the only man and Eve the only woman. The statement about the woman being deceived while Adam wasn’t seems to imply that part of the reason Paul is saying the woman shouldn’t teach is that there is something in the nature of women that may make them more prone to latch onto doctrinal error. But if that’s the case, then women probably shouldn’t be teaching doctrine at all. So next time we’ll look at how we can resolve some of these questions when we may not have enough in this passage to resolve them.

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