Submission, women, the Bible: 1 Timothy 2

“There are those who believe this text is making a blanket statement about the role of women in the church. “

religious-inclusion01There was this picture on Facebook of a guy holding a sign that women “should be quiet, submissive to husband, cooking, ironing, silent in church”. It specifically cites 1 Timothy 2.

I came across this article by Jenna Daniels, who was, at least as of the publication date was associate pastor at Awaken Community Covenant Church, St. Paul, MN. The piece was undated but was posted at least two years ago.

Rev. Daniels pulls our verses 11-15:

“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety.”

She notes, correctly, that “There are those who believe this text is making a blanket statement about the role of women in the church. There are other passages that seem to say this same thing, where women are to remain silent, or that they are the glory of man, they are to submit, they can’t lead.”

So what is she doing preaching? She sees Paul’s writing in this and other cases as a contextual prohibition. Specifically, the apostle may have been referring to the culture in Ephesus and the worship of Artemis, the goddess of fertility, for example.

Paul “is addressing a group of women who were false teachers influenced by the Artemis cult in which female supremacy was the norm. When [he] talks about the authority these women are exercising, he uses a word that is used nowhere in the entire New Testament: authentein, translated as ‘exercise authority.’ Other times when Paul is referring to authority, he uses [the generic] exousia

“But authentein carries a sense of abusing power and acting on your own authority. These women are teaching things that aren’t true, and doing it in an abusive way, so Paul tells them to be silent. Interestingly, he still tells them to learn.”

In this vein, here are Six Things Submission Is Not by John Piper, coincidentally also a Minnesota pastor. My broader point is that it is easy to cherry-pick scripture to support oppression; American slavery was justified in that manner.

As Rev. Daniels notes, “I believe the Enemy’s greatest and strongest work is to cause us to misunderstand God’s Word in a way that binds up and constricts and prevents where God’s intent is freedom and life in Christ for all people.”

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

6 thoughts on “Submission, women, the Bible: 1 Timothy 2”

  1. It always saddens me when people takes scripture out of context to justify their own agendas. I believe contributes to the negative impression people have of Christians. I think there’s a decent chance the sign-carrying man had never taken time to read and study 1st Timothy, much less the rest of the bible.

  2. Roger, I left my church when I came to see that the ONLY role a woman could have there was either in the kitchen or dealing with children. All the pastors had come from California and we’re what I now realize were right wing evangelicals. And MY younger daughter was told by the pastor in charge of teens that her father was burning in He’ll because he committed suicide. She never told me this for probably 15 years. If I had known at the time I would probably still be in prison today!

  3. Honestly, the congregation I belong to? People joke (because we are big on not-taking-out-of-context) that we wouldn’t HAVE church if women didn’t do leadership roles.

    Many weeks I wind up both setting up communion (as a deaconess) and blessing it at the table (as Head Elder, a job I wish I could give up and just be a regular elder – I am responsible for scheduling people and running meetings and more often than not, filling in when someone is absent…). I’ve also filled the pulpit as a layperson once or twice.

  4. Well whether this means anything in the context of this article ..I find just this line in Genesis 1 interesting…….so God created man in his own image,in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them… I think females are quite important as God seems to have felt so by these beginning lines.Any thoughts here?????

  5. Christine – I think Genesis 1 was an allegory, trying to explain the then-explainable. This is is why there is a somewhat different version in Genesis 2. There’s a blogger I knew who wanted to understand the Bible and bailed after Genesis 2, because it is NOT history but a myth – and by that, I don’t mean fiction, I mean trying a larger story than a “just the facts” reportage.

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