I am hesitant to post this because it’s my first one and I’m not sure it’s very good, but here is some of what I wrote for my first exegetical outline. I am also hesitant to put it up here as I don’t know that anyone will enjoy reading it. But alas, here ’tis…
Silence is the first word in this pericope that has spurred much debate and gnashing of teeth. Translated as “silence” in the NKJV and the RSV, the NLT, NASB, and NET translate it as “quietly,” with the NIV right alongside choosing “quietness.” It is interesting that in chapter 2 vv. 1-2 the same Greek word is translated “peaceful and quiet” as in “peaceful and quiet lives” which does not at all have the connotation of “silence” or “quiet” in the way absence of speech. Linda L. Belleville makes an excellent point in her chapter “Teaching and Usurping Authority” that “silence is not compatible with the Socratic dialogical approach to learning in Paul’s day.” Since it is revolutionary that Paul said “a woman should learn” (v. 11) it is more likely that Paul was giving women guidance on the best way to study or learn since this is a new freedom they are able to enjoy. After all, one must be open, or submissive, to new ideas in order to learn anything. If your mind is closed to new ideas, learning will not occur.
The next significant word in this pericope is “authority.” In the NASB and NET as “exercise authority over a man” and in the NIV, RSV, NKJV, and NLT as “have authority over a man,” this is another hotly debated word. The Greek word used here is not found anywhere else in the entire New Testament canon which makes translation a bit of a challenge. Belleville argues Paul chose this word, instead of the other words he used throughout his books to communicate ideas relating to authority, because it “carried a nuance…that was particularly suited to the Ephesian situation.” Fortunately the Greek word used is found in many other non-Biblical sources thus allowing us to understand the word to mean “to dominate, to get one’s way.” Domineering leadership or teaching is not desirable in the body of Christ whether coming from a man or a woman. The reasons Paul addressed this to women will be discussed later.
A “great commercial emporium located on the western coast of Asia Minor,” Ephesus was a hub for both land and sea trade and the home to a quarter million people, making it one of the three or four largest cities of the empire. Home to the temple of Artemis, “thousands of pilgrims came to Ephesus yearly to honor the great goddess.” It is no surprise then that Paul spent so much time and energy in Ephesus since it was “one of the major centers of the Roman world.” His first visit to Ephesus took place on the return trip from his second journey to spread the gospel. While Paul did not stay long at this point, he spent about three years there during his next journey.
It seems as though the church has a lot to figure out and sort through during this time period. While the mysteries of God have not become easier to understand or interpret in one sense, currently we have the benefit of all the thinking and interpreting that has been accomplished (both good and bad) and that large library of scholarship serves as a wonderful springboard for today’s academia. Whereas presently we have all 27 books of the New Testament, the early church had very little to go on. It was all new. The term “trinity” had not yet been established, the relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit has not yet been hashed out, and even simple things like how to choose church leaders have not been established. In the eyes of some, “the survival of the Christian community seemed highly doubtful to any realistic observer.” So things may have seemed grim to Timothy when he received this letter from Paul.
In addition, “the problems of transmitting faith from generation to generation were for the first time beginning to be understood.” Though Timothy was taught the Hebrew Scriptures from his youth (II Tim 3:15) and both his mother and grandmother were Christians, since much was being encountered for the first time. The things he had learned his youth were not sufficient in light of his current struggles. In light of this, I find it interesting that the word “tradition” is from the Latin tradere “which means both ‘to hand over’ and ‘to betray.’”
The influence of the Goddess Artemis is also significant. The people of Ephesus were very much enraptured by their goddess. While not necessarily a matriarchal society, Artemis, the daughter of Zeus and Leto, chose to enjoy the company of mere mortal men instead of gods. As a result, Artemis and all women who followed her were viewed as superior to men. Knowing this sheds light on the debate surrounding the translation of the Greek for the word “authority.” If women are taught by the culture that they are superior to men, a word from Paul telling women not to domineer men makes a lot more sense.
As stated, 1 Timothy is a pastoral epistle. Though Paul states that Timothy should “give the people these instructions, too, so that no one may be open to blame” (5:7), it is very evident that it is a personal letter. Paul addresses the epistle to Timothy directly (1:2), he addresses him directly as his son a little later on (1:18), and he closes the letter again addressing him directly (6:20). There are also other instances where Paul’s language indicates he is addressing Timothy indirectly (i.e., 1 Timothy 4:12-14). Since Paul does not waste any time with a lengthy greeting or introduction, 1 Timothy 2:8-15 is part of the body proper. The fact that this passage is towards the beginning of the body indicates the topic of this passage was of utmost importance to Paul.
With respect to rhetoric, 1 Timothy 2:8-15 is deliberative since Paul is communicating about what should and should not be done in the context of worship. Though this passage does not contain all the possible aspects of a rhetorical address, it does contain a few of them. Firstly, exordium is very evident in v. 8 with the statement “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer” and v. 9 with “I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety.” These statements communicated part of Paul’s cause and would have attracted the attention of both men and women in the address of the other sex. The elements of probation, in the way of logical argument, and refutation seem to be combined in vv. 13-14. If Paul was indeed speaking against the imbalance on the side of the superiority of women, it makes sense that he would point out Eve’s sin. As Belleville points out, this is “hardly a basis on which to claim superiority.” Lastly, v. 15 would have probably resulted in a rise in emotion since the Ephesians women often sought protection from Artemis during childbirth and can thus be viewed as the element of peroration.
HISTORICAL CONTEXT IN PARTICULAR
Timothy is the direct audience while the church at Ephesus is the indirect audience. While it doesn’t seem as though Timothy himself is in need of correction, the church in Ephesus is with respect to the practical application of the freedom and equality men and women now have in Christ. It does not seem their error is in the theological realm but rather just in understanding how to apply this equality in light of the cultural norms of their society.
Timothy however, seems to be in need of comfort and exhortation. Twice Paul reminds him of his gifts and the laying on of hands (1:18, 4:14) and Paul’s language has a resounding theme of “You can do it, Timothy! I have faith in you!” While there is no way to be certain about how Paul has heard about the situation in Ephesus, it is entirely possible that Timothy wrote Paul to ask for his advice on the struggles he was encountering as he tried to shepherd the flock there. It is also possible that Paul has heard about the situation at Ephesus from a third party.
The point of this passage is to challenge the gentile believers of Ephesus to settle into their equality within Christ. He is pointing the men away from anger and disputing (v. 8) and the women away from immodesty and domination (vv. 9, 12). At the same time he is also exhorting them to seek God through prayer (v. 8) and learning (v. 11). In one sense it is as if he is calling for a truce in the battle of the sexes. Since the goddess Artemis was called on to save women in childbirth, v. 15 would have been very surprising to his audience. It seems to take the emphasis off childbirth, the chief end of woman, and place it on continuing in “faith, love, and holiness with propriety” which are natural fruit for those in Christ. The answer to the first question in the Westminster Catechism, “What is the chief end of man?” holds new meaning for me now: “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.”
While on the one hand Paul is affirming and redeeming childbirth, which was significantly effected by the fall, he is at the same time denigrating it as the assumed “chief end of women.” It seems Paul’s central concern is that the church is unified and living peaceably with each other (and their leadership) “that [they] may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (2:2). I think v. 15 is imperative to Paul’s argument. It seems to be the clincher since he was playing on the common practice of worshiping the fertility god. After establishing the equality between men and women, Paul transitions to the requirements for overseers, deacons, and deaconesses.
BIBLICAL AND THEOLOGICAL CONTEXTS
1 Timothy 2:8-15 illustrates the principle of removing the plank out of your own eye before trying to remove the speck out of someone else’s eye. The men were praying but in anger (potentially about the women) and the women were being immodest and domineering (potentially to provoke the men). Instead of looking inwardly, they were looking outwardly. Instead of being open to instruction, they were closed up in their own pride. Paul is able to show them the error of their way by taking advantage of the cultural motif of a fertility god to show them equality was possible through Christ. While this pericope is often used to champion “anti-women in ministry” campaigns, it seems to present the exact opposite. The equality we have in Christ would not be as clear if this passage were not written. It is very supportive of Galatians 3:26-28 and 1 Corinthians 7:4 as well as vv. 32-35.
The implications this passage has on the body of Christ today are tremendous. Many denominations still limit the roles women are allowed to fill within the body. The body of Christ is suffering as a result. This does not just affect the women of the church, but the church as a whole. Not allowing women in ministry is like trying to get from New York to California by heading east and using only right turns. It might be possible to get there eventually, but time and resources are wasted in the process. So men need to pray without anger and disputes (v. 8) and so do women. And women need to dress modestly and learn humbly (vv. 9-11) and so do men. And together we need to preach the kingdom of God that is already here and yet not yet come while “continuing in faith, love, and holiness with propriety” (v. 15).
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