1 Timothy 2:11
A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.
(a) A woman must quietly receive instruction. The word must should be italicized since it has been added by translators and is not in the Bible. A literal translation would be “Let a woman in quietness learn” or simply “Let a woman learn.”
In the sexist world of Jewish religion, some believed that women should remain uneducated. “Teach your sons but not your daughters,” says the Talmud. To teach women, was to cast your pearls before swine. In his youth, Paul might have agreed with these sentiments. But then he met Jesus and was set free from his prejudice. He changed his tune and began teaching women. When he arrived in Philippi, he only taught women (Acts 16:13).
Paul championed a woman’s right to education, and it was important that Timothy understood this. As the leader of a church, Timothy would have felt pressure to conform to Jewish customs and Greek habits. “Don’t conform to this world,” said Paul. “Jesus taught women, and so do we.”
(b) Quietly receive instruction. Paul never says, “Let a woman learn in silence,” as some translations have it. He says let a woman learn in quietness or stillness. It’s similar to the word he employs earlier in the chapter when he expresses his hope that all believers may enjoy peaceful and quiet lives (1 Tim. 2:2).
(c) With entire submissiveness. Paul does not say that women must learn with all submission to men. Terrible damage has been inflicted on the body of Christ by adding two words to scripture and insisting that one half submit to the other. A woman who desires to learn should submit quietly to God and his gospel, which is something we all must do. Grace is for the humble and teachable. The proud learn nothing.
1 Timothy 2:12
But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.
(a) I do not allow a woman to teach. Tragically, this verse, along with 1 Corinthians 14:34, has been used to silence half the church. “Women can’t talk and they can’t teach.” Which goes to show you the damage that can be inflicted by misreading one scripture and ignoring all the rest.
Can a woman teach? On this question the scriptures provide a resounding and affirmative response (Matt. 28:10, 19–20, Luke 6:40, 8:1–2a, John 4:39, Acts 18:26, Rom. 12:7, 16:3–5a, 12, 1 Cor. 14:26, Col.3:16, Heb. 5:12, 1 Pet. 2:9, 3:15, 4:10–11). Since most of these scriptures were penned by Paul, it would be ludicrous to conclude that Paul was opposed to women teachers. He even praised the two women who taught Timothy (2 Tim. 1:5).
Paul never says he is opposed to women teachers. When he says, “I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man,” he adopts an unusual choice of words. Instead of using the normal word for authority (exousia), he uses a negative verb (authenteo), which can be translated as usurp. It means to dominate or boss around. In a literal sense, it can mean to kill with one’s own hands. Paul is painting a picture of violent domination, such as might have been associated with the Ephesian cult of Artemis.
Ephesus was home to Artemis, the Greek mother goddess and her fanatical followers (see Acts 19:28). The female priests who served at the Artemision complex were governed by a high priestess, so domineering female leaders were known in that city. The temptation facing the young church was that in throwing off the shackles of male domination, the pendulum might swing too far in the other direction.
In essence, Paul is echoing what Jesus said to the disciples: “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, but you are not to be like that.” Just as it is wrong for men to lord it over women, it is wrong for women to lord it over men. A godly teacher does not throw their weight around like a tyrant. Instead, he or she sets an example for others to follow.
Further reading: “Are women permitted to teach?”
1 Timothy 2:13
For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.
Paul was addressing some Gnostic teachings that had surfaced in Ephesus. We don’t know exactly what was being taught, but given the local culture it’s a fair bet there were some who believed that Eve or some Artemis-like mother-goddess had created Adam, or that Eve had been the smart one for pursuing knowledge from the forbidden tree. Paul wrote to set the record straight. “Adam was created first, and Eve was deceived.”
1 Timothy 2:14
And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.
The woman being deceived. Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning (2 Cor. 11:3). Paul is not suggesting women are inferior or more gullible. He’s saying, don’t neglect to train people. Adam neglected to teach Eve, and as a result, she fell into deception. Paul believed the daughters of Eve should have the same learning opportunities as the sons of Adam. “Let a woman learn” (1 Tim. 2:11)
Further reading: “Are women more easily deceived?”
1 Timothy 2:15
But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.
(a) Women will be preserved. The word women should be in italics as it has been added by translators. Paul never said it. Other Bibles translate his words as “she will be saved through childbearing.” Who is she? It is the woman Paul has been talking about, namely Eve.
Eve was de¬ceived and became a sinner (1 Tim. 2:14), but that wasn’t the end of her story. She was saved through childbearing, meaning her Offspring undid the damage. Women are not saved by making babies, but women (and men) are saved because Eve had a baby. No baby, no Jesus. Which is a lovely way for Paul to close out what he has been saying. “Because Adam failed to train his wife, Eve fell into deception, and humanity was lost. But God redeemed their mess by giving us a Savior, born from the couple who fell.”
(b) If they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.
Ephesians worshipped Artemis, the goddess of childbirth and midwifery. An Ephesian believer facing a difficult birth might be tempted to fall back on old habits and offer sacrifices to Artemis. “There’s no salvation there,” said Paul. “Continue in the faith and trust God instead.” Continue trusting him and you won’t be seduced into dead works or religious superstition.”
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