From the mailbox: “Just wanted to say thank you for your article on 1 Timothy 2. It was a great reference for me as my 13 yr old daughter asked me about it when she read it during her devotions. I was not sure how to respond to her until I found your article. Thank you!” God Bless, Brian. As long as 1 Timothy 2 continues to be used to restrict women from fulfilling their call to discipleship we will continue sharing good scholarship on this passage. Today’s “long form” post is by seminary professor Patrick Franklin. In it he identifies 3 general reasons and 6 specific problems with using the passage in this way. This is our most comprehensive post on 1 Timothy 2 to date – be sure to bookmark it for further reference.
They are the verses of Scripture used most frequently to silence women in the church: 1 Timothy 2:11-12. I remember reading them as a 26-year-old when first contemplating my call to ministry. God’s voice had been clear, but those three short sentences were not; “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit her to teach or have authority over a man. She. Must. Be. Silent.”
I’d sat there reading the passage over and over; trying to find something I hadn’t seen before. The black and white lettering seemed so stark, so clear; so… black and white. Why would Paul say such a thing? In my church, Paul’s instructions were taken literally. Women weren’t permitted to speak whenever men were present. They couldn’t lead, teach or even pray. Growing up, those words hadn’t particularly bothered me, but now they smarted like lemon juice in an open cut. No matter how I read them, the conclusion was still the same – I couldn’t follow God’s call. As a pastor today, it’s obvious that my understanding of those few verses has long since changed…
For years I struggled with my relationship with the apostle Paul. On the one hand, as a teenager, I was completely taken with books like Galatians and Philippians and studied chart after chart of the missionary journeys (I am a missionary kid, after all). But as an adult I had trouble reconciling the “clobber verses” often used to […]
Ephesians 5:21-33 is often cited as a proof text to endorse male leadership in the home.
In this text, wives are instructed to submit to their husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. Pretty clear, right?
Well, perhaps not. As with the other passages, we need to consider the broader context to discern what’s going on.
The most important thing to notice is that the relationship between husbands and wives is not the main theme that Paul is addressing.
Hundreds of pages have been written on this chapter, with almost as many interpretations, proving this to be one of the least understood and most contested passages of all time. Yet many Christians continue to cite 1 Timothy 2 as the foundation for their belief in male only leadership in the church. In today’s post Gail shares her “elevator speech” about why we need to stop using this passage in the debate.
I couldn’t study. I couldn’t think straight. I was distressed, overset with a spiritual crisis that rocked me to the core. Did God not love me, just because I was female?
I had been, by nature, a well-behaved and compliant child who didn’t really experience the rebellion thing as a teenager (heck, my “rebellion” was trying to find opportunities to go to church twice on a Sunday, which my unchurched family didn’t always appreciate!). “Following the rules” was, as far as I could see it, a big part of “doing the right thing,” and “being a decent person.” And obeying rules was something I didn’t usually find at all difficult. And conflict? Nope…definitely not something I would willingly enter into.
Throughout history, the church has been characterized by a male-dominated social hierarchy. This worldview has been so pervasive that some even consider it to be “God’s created order.” In light of the prevalence of this pattern, some people have asked me, “Has there ever been a female-dominated culture?”
A 1st century B.C. historian by the name of Diodorus Siculus provides us with the following information:
“Beside the river of Thermadon, therefore, a nation ruled by females held sway, in which women pursued the arts of war just like men…. To the men she [the nation’s Queen] relegated the spinning of wool and other household tasks of women. She promulgated laws whereby she led forth the women to martial strife, while on the men she fastened humiliation and servitude.”
It is all too easy for the loudest and most prolific voices to dominate what a young Christian hears about gender relationships in the Christian church and family.
My twenties were found during the 1990’s. Looking back on that era now, it seems like there was a considerable amount of effort directed toward Christian men to “reclaim” what it meant to be a godly man. As a young husband and father, I recall going through parenting workshops and reading family and parenting books emphasizing ideas I now understand to be based on patriarchy and complementarianism to varying degrees.
On the surface these ministries, classes, and books made quite a bit of sense to a young Christian wanting to live right and “biblically.” And I was almost taken in by them. Almost. But there were things that continued to bother me. They taught what appeared to be a singular vision for what a godly man, a godly woman, and a godly family looks like. The implication was that anything else was less than the biblical model.
For over a decade I didn’t know what to do with the discomfort I felt about what was taught to me as the traditions of gender and family in the church. Then a few years ago I began to encounter blogs and books showing there are other ways that Christians interpret and apply biblical texts, including those dealing with gender.
We believe authority is at the heart of much marriage misunderstanding and debate. Over the years traditional-hierarchical-complementarian marriage-view proponents have described their perceived authority to us in different ways.
VARIATIONS ON A THEME
Some husbands have told us that as the leader they have a 51 percent role in making decisions and the wife has 49 percent. As we listen to these men explain their marriage, we can’t help but wonder, “How is a 51/49 functional authority any different from a husband who has 99 percent authority and a wife who has 1 percent?” Either way, the husband has final authority to make decisions.
Submission in marriage often comes with lots of negative baggage. In fact, many people refer to submission as the “S”-word. The reality is that there are only a few Bible texts that focus on submission in marriage.
Headship can often become a divisive issue in marriage discussions—especially in religious circles. Various “infallible” headship interpretations and accompanying dialogue could fill a library. Our experience is that people will endlessly argue the original Greek and Hebrew, lexicons, grammar roots, verb tenses, hermeneutical and eschatological anthropomorphisms, and endless jots and tittles until Jesus Christ returns.
Both egalitarians and complementarians try to grapple with Paul’s words in Galatians 3:28 in their own ways. However, sometimes we do not look closely enough to see how this verse fits into Paul’s logic in Galatians. In part, this is because the traditional interpretation of Galatians (at least among Protestants since the Reformation) has been that Paul is arguing against works in favor of grace.
1 Timothy 2:12 continues to be an obstacle that prevents churches from moving toward a more robust theology of women.
Some Christians believe that being a leader is a man’s role, and that it is unfeminine for women to be in leadership. These Christians dismiss female leaders mentioned in the Bible as rare exceptions and anomalies. Does the Bible teach that leadership is masculine? Or that leadership is unfeminine?
in Ephesians 5:24, Greek manuscripts of the New Testament frame male authority or the submission of wives to husbands not as command, but rather as a description.