Comparative Commentary on 1 Timothy Return to Home
By Roland H. Worth, Jr. © 2020
All reproduction of text in paper, electronic, or computer
form both permitted and encouraged so long as authorial
credit is given and the text is not altered.
(1 Timothy 2:9-15)
Context: “9 In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.”
Three general principles for women: “adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation” (2:9).
“Dress in modest apparel” stresses the element
of restraint. The modesty imagery is
retained in such translations as “dress(ing)
modestly” (ISV, NIV), “modest clothing” (Holman), “decent clothing” (WEB), and
“respectable apparel” (ESV). It is not
quite as obvious in such renderings as “proper clothing/clothes” (ESV, NASB),
“suitable apparel” (NET), and “becomingly” (
To most ears “modest apparel” would surely carry the dominant messages of: “don’t show too much cleavage,” “don’t make your clothes too tight,” “don’t aim at seeing how ‘sexy’ you can look.” Although Paul would certainly not have had any problem with such admonitions, he promptly provides examples of what he actually has in mind: “braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing” (2:9).
His immediate target is not brazenness in the presentation of a woman’s sexuality but the bravado of monetary egoism: “Look at how fancy my hairstyles are, look at the expensive gold and pearls I wear, behold the insanely expensive clothing I am wearing. I am at the top of the world and proudly show it off to you, you little folk. Drool and be envious of my wealth.” Or as one commentator put it, “Dress is a reflection of personality and a woman’s dress is a mirror of her mind.”
(In all fairness in this second decade of the 21st century is not the pictorial image of the “sophisticated” and “elite” woman typically one envolving both very expensive attire and very expensive revealing attire as well? Hence it is unwise to draw a water tight barrier between the two methods of being immodest.)
The emphasis that Paul puts on his instruction, argues for a significant problem either already existing or the clear danger of one developing. The very fact that the extravagance of the well off should be criticized argues that there were a significant number of them within the believing community. They are presented as if already believers and not outsiders.
should warn us against the easy stereotype that early Christians were
exclusively the poor. In places, no
doubt, they were dominant—especially since there are relative degrees
of “poor.” But in
A further note on “apparel” is appropriate for it may provide a useful linkage to other remarks Paul makes in the current context. Katastolé covered “ ‘attire,’ though it sometimes had the wider sense of outward appearance or deportment.” Immediately after the injunction for modest attire (verse 9), he pleads for the kind of behavior that fits women who claim to be worshippers of God (verse 10). In other words, he links together clothing and behavior: Restrained clothing goes with restrained behavior. And immediately after that he pleads for feminine restraint in the church assembly--to leave the public teaching role to the male members. Hence he deals with “attire” in both the literal sense and also in the lifestyle that one “wears” and exhibits to others.
As to the place he has in mind, if we run verses 8 and 9 together we can see where it is: “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel. . . .” In other words, they are to clothe themselves in appropriate attire in just as many places as the males are to pray—“everywhere.”
Since he specifically has in mind worship (verses 11-12), Paul has in mind every phew 1:1lace where they are gathered together to worship God. Anywhere and everywhere throughout the geographic world that might be. A “universal rule,” if you will. But if it is the universal standard of conduct inside assemblies, can we possibly imagine that Paul would have encouraged something different outside of those gatherings, in “everyday life?” The fundamental repudiation of that very clothing standard? I think not.
We find further evidence of this in the fact that Peter enjoins a similar standard of restrained apparel without any allusion to the church assembly (1 Peter 3:3). In 1 Timothy 2 the word for “apparel” means “long and flowing” while Peter uses a broader one referring to clothing in general. The practical parallel for today would seem to be the difference between “dress” clothing and everyday ones.
surely some around who still take the “long and flowing” in a most literal
sense as intended to exclude female pants suits. If enjoining the permanent maintenance of first
century clothing styles was the intent of Paul, then it would be equally wrong
for males to wear them: Unless you were
in “barbarian” areas that got very cold in winter--think
wrestle with the remainder of the verse, “adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation” (2:9). The “with propriety” is rendered
“decently” (ISV), but a goodly number move the restraint of “modest
apparel” to this point, introducing only now the injunction to be “modest”
(GW), “modestly” (NASB), and “with modesty” (ESV, NET, WEB,
“with . . . moderation,” some translations use language that leave the
impression that sexual modesty is the core thought being conveyed in the
admonition by speaking of “decency” (NIV), “respectable” (GW), and “propriety”
(WEB). “Discretely” (NASB) would also
seem to fall into that category. Easier
to see that a broader or different point is in Paul’s mind is found in such
renderings as “self-control” (ESV, NET,
Luke T. Johnson writes on the problem of adequate translation of the underlying term for “moderation:”
The translation of sóphrosyné is always difficult, for as one of the cardinal virtues its range of applications is so vast. Taking its basic sense as “right moral thinking” with an emphasis on “self-control” (Plato, Republic 430E; Aristotle, Rhetoric 1.9.9), the best rendering in the context of clothing and decorum would seem to be “discretion.”
In other words, use your God given intellect to decide how to best dress appropriately—for the occasion, for your own good appearance, and as a humble but confident servant of God. In other words, there isn’t so much absolute rules as to the form of the attire, as there are to the intent and purpose of the attire.
Both “propriety” and “moderation” overlap of course. If we are to make a more or less clear cut distinction, perhaps “propriety” emphasizes that which fits in the societal view of appropriateness while “moderation” stresses our personal judgment of finding the most appropriate place within that context. Of it you opt for the translations of “propriety” and “self-control,” the former could represent what is restrained in society’s viewpoint and “self-control” the individual woman’s personal decision to reflect such restraint in her own attire and behavior rather than giving vent to excess.
The contemporary popularity of such views. It should be stressed that Paul does not present these ideas of public restraint as a distinctive or unique Christian characteristic. There is no hint that contemporary Judaism had any problem with it—or surely the Judaizers would have found some way to use it as a weapon against Paul!
Nor was Paul the only apostle to encourage moderation in public displays of one’s economic well being. As noted previously, the apostle Peter raises it in a different context in 1 Peter 3:
1 Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. 3 Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— 4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.
In other words, their efforts not to flaunt their prosperity would appeal to the expectations of non-believing husbands and make far easier their conversion. This only makes sense if such restraint was generally viewed as a societal goal to be sought.
Direct evidence can certainly be found of this. Phyntis of Sparta (3rd or 4th century B.C.), writes in her On Women’s Temperance:
As to body-ornaments, a woman’s garments should be white and simple and not superfluous. They will be so if they are neither transparent nor variegated, nor woven from silk, inexpensive, and white. This will prevent excess ornamentation, luxury and superfluity of clothes, and will avoid the imitation of depravity by others. Neither gold nor emeralds should ornament her body for they are very expensive and exhibit pride and arrogance towards the [common people]. . . .
A woman should, besides, illuminate her face, not by powder or rouge, but by the natural glow from the towel, adoring herself with modesty rather than by art. Thus she will reflect honor both on herself and her husband.
Perictione, either the mother of Plato or a later woman with the same name, wrote on philosophical themes herself. (Those denying its genuineness attribute it as late as the 1st century A.D.—even closer to the time period of special interest to us.) She also sees women as needing to restrain any sartorial flamboyance—going so far as to stress that if “push comes to shove” all you have to have are animal skins to cover your nakedness! She writes in On the Harmony of Women:
But one must also train the body to natural measures concerning nourishment and clothing, baths and anointings, the arrangement of the hair, and ornaments of gold and precious stone. Women who eat and drink every costly thing, who dress extravagantly and wear the things that women wear, are ready for the sin of every vice both with respect to the marriage bed and the rest of wrongdoing. It is necessary merely to appease hunger and thirst, even if this be done by frugal means; in the case of cold, even a goat-skin or rough garment would suffice.
To wear cloaks extravagantly purpled by dye-baths of marine shellfish or of some other lavish color, this is great foolishness. The body wants not to shiver and—for the sake of decency—not to be naked; it requires no more. But in its ignorance human opinion hastens towards the vain and excessive.
So the harmonious woman will not wrap herself in gold or precious stone from India or anywhere else, nor will she braid her hair with artful skills or anoint herself with infusions of Arabian scent, nor will she paint her face, whitening or rouging it, darkening her eyebrows and lashes and treating her gray hair with dye; nor will she be forever bathing,
The woman who seeks these things seeks an admirer of feminine weakness. It is the beauty that comes from wisdom, not from these, that gratifies women who are well born.
Four apparel prohibitions: “braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing” (2:9). These four can be divided into three categories: hairstyles, ornamentation, and expensive clothing.
(1) Hairstyles: “braided hair” or “plaited hair” (
If one believes there is something peculiarly sinful with braided hair, well that would be a different story. Does anyone really want to undertake that effort? I have to admit that this is one of the limited number of scenarios where I don’t even have the foggiest how to attempt even a theoretical argument in its behalf!
Furthermore we do know that the ancients had a love for elaborate hairstyles and that they were costly because of the large number of hours that had to be put into obtaining them. In other words, this approach fits perfectly well with the expensive excesses of jewelry and clothing that are explicitly mentioned. What other reason would be the purpose of mentioning one specific hair style (braiding) in conjunction with financial excess—unless, like we said, one is going to seek to find some special way in which that hairstyle is inherently sinful.
(2) Ornamentation (jewelry): The reference to “pearls” is clearly to jewelry and since people aren’t likely to be carrying “gold” in bulk form, “gold jewelry” (GW) is surely the point. Both would clearly be expensive and, in context, designed to elevate the woman’s importance above everyone else: “Look what I have!”
This does not mean that jewelry is always wrong—for either gender. An unidentified author has compiled the following useful selection of texts to prove that point (from the KJV):
1. "And I asked her, and said, whose daughter art thou? And she said, the daughter of Bethuel, Nahor's son, whom Milcah bare unto him: and I put the earring upon her face, and the bracelets upon her hands. And I bowed down my head, and worshipped the Lord, and blessed the Lord God of my master Abraham, which had led me in the right way to take my master's brother's daughter unto his son." – Genesis 24:47-48
2. "And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck..." – Genesis 41:42
3. "As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear." – Proverbs 25:12
4. "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels." – Isaiah 61:10
5. "Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number." – Jeremiah 2:32
6. "I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck. And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head. Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom." – Ezekiel 16:11-13
7. "But the father said to his servants, bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand." – Luke 15:22
The situations in these cases vary. For example: jewelry as a mark of honor (Joseph from Pharaoh) to joy at receiving back alive someone feared dead (the prodigal son from his father). In more normal social contexts we read of such things being given to a loved one (husband to wife). What these texts do not describe is the type of usage being discussed in 1 Timothy 2—social “one-upmanship” by the brazen display of one’s economic resources.
(3) The wasted expense envolved in insisting on only the “best of the best” of clothing: In rendering “costly clothing,” the alternatives still make clear that the cost element is front and center in the criticism: “costly clothes” (Weymouth), “costly attire” (ESV), “costly garments” (NASB). Using a different adjective to convey the expensiveness, “expensive apparel” (Holman) and “expensive clothing/clothes” (GW, ISV, NET, NIV, WEB).
What all four items convey is attire as “showmanship:” “Look at what I have. Look at what I can afford. And tomorrow I’ll have something just as good . . . or even better! I hope you’re envying me the way you should!” The text is blasting ego trips. It’s not even the expensiveness that is the core evil. (You really expect the rich to wear poor person’s clothing?) It’s what an earlier generation called “putting on the dog,” showing off for one and sundry. It’s pride triumphant and just because a woman is flaunting it, and has the means to do so, doesn’t make it right. There can be restraint at all class levels, assuming the woman wishes to exercise it. And Paul’s message is to convince Christian women to do so.
As to expensive jewelry in particular, an aristocratic British lady of the second half of the nineteenth century had some perceptive thoughts on how such things--wonderful as they may superficially seem--are actually a double edged sword that can actually bring hurt and injury to oneself:
As to jewels, let me advise you not to buy any--even though you have the purse of Fortunatus, or may hereafter become wealthy. Some may be given you, but still I would say, do not wear them--unless, perhaps, now and then, with the pure desire of affording pleasure to the donors. A fancy for the possession and display of jewelry soon generates into a craze, ever growing, or unsatisfied unless in the ownership of gems superior to those of others around you. It is an unhealthy and vulgar [= common, low class] feeling, which has not seldom led to the ruin of women in all classes.
Other reasons may be advanced against the indulgence of this false taste. Valuable jewels cannot but become, at times, a source of trouble and anxiety; and if lost or stolen, a bitter feeling of annoyance is retained. Opportunities for display are few; and often then, through disadvantageous comparison with others, are apt to give rise to heart-burning and envy--feelings which would never be experienced in such a way were the face resolutely set against such vanities.
The language is “dated” of course, but the reasoning still makes a great deal of sense.
Two positive behavioral guidelines: They are to wear the garments appropriate to “women professing godliness, with good works” (). Hence having stressed the negatives, he now emphasizes the positives.
Their behavior is to reflect their “godliness,” their desire to live in a manner reflective of their loyalty to God. Hence the translations sometimes opt for “revere God” (ISV) or “reverence for God” (GW, NET). Even, “worship God” (Holman, NIV). The last fits well with the reference to public worship in verse 8, but the examples of behavior that are cited (elaborate hairstyles, expensive jewelry, expensive clothing) really are not only applicable to a church assembly context. The mentality that drove its presence in that setting would do so for all other public or social occasions as well.
Luke T. Johnson notes that this is the only New Testament use of the term and that its literal meaning is “reverence for God.” He suggests a translation of “dedicated to the service of God.” Alternatively one might opt for “respect for God” to accurately present Paul’s point.
Their behavior is also to reflect “good works.” This is modified by a few translations into “good deeds” (NET, NIV) or “good actions” (ISV). The qualitative description of behavior is found in the word “good.” Not self-centered, not self-advertising. Instead everything is done to honor God and benefit others. Or as Paul addressed all believers--both male and female--“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).
(3) The Limits of Women’s Authority (-12): “11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.”
Although the attire reference has obvious relevance to behavior in all aspects of life and not just the religious, these two verses explicitly bring us back into the church assembly itself. Paul had begun with discussing prayer in that assembly. Now he implicitly shifts to the teaching and preaching that is done.
First of all, let us dissect the
individual phrases and compare how they are rendered in a cross-section of
translations. The NKJV’s “learn in silence”
() becomes “in quietness”
(NIV, WEB), “quietly” (ESV, NASB, NET,
The most obvious application of this text is to women preaching and teaching from the pulpit. It rules that out.
However what is said goes further than that as well. No interruption or challenge of the speaker is permitted. She is to function as an astute observer and personal evaluator of what is being said, but her role is not to challenge it publicly. In her own mind is a different matter for all believers are told to test the reliability of the teaching they hear (1 Thessalonians ).
Nor does the text provide any inhibition against her taking up the questions that may be in her mind with her husband at home. She is fully entitled to an answer. Her husband has the obligation either to provide it or find someone who does. “Male leadership” and being the “head of the household” put that obligation firmly on his shoulders and it is her proper right to insist that he fulfill that role.
Indeed when the apostle lays down a similar prohibition in 1 Corinthians 14, he makes this implication quite explicit: “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church” (verses 34-35).
Nor is it likely that Paul intends any limitation on her querying the presentation after services (when the preaching is over)--seeking an explanation for unanswered questions and an explanation for where she suspects the speaker has misstated the point of the text. (Or she can’t quite grasp the point he is driving at.) Unquestionably it would in no way affect her right to question him when the two families are visiting each other in their homes for Paul specifically states in verse 35 (above) the propriety of asking “at home.”
Although primary emphasis in the discussion of “learn in silence” inevitably on the limitations imposed upon the female, the significance of “learn” is often overlooked. Although she was not to be a teacher of males, she was still to be a learner of scripture and spiritual truth. Although NET’s notes are more common in regard to translation issues, on this point it adds a very useful commentary observation as well, “This was a radical and liberating departure from the Jewish view that women were not to learn the law.”
Jewish rabbinic tradition found in the Talmud is quite critical of the idea of women learning the scriptures that already existed:
The earliest mention of Torah study by women occurs in Sifrei [in the
Babylonian Talmud]: “And you shall teach your sons and not your daughters.”
The Mishnah (Sotah 3:4) mentions a prohibition that reflects the various
paradigms. The Tanna Eliezer ben Hyrcanus (end of the first to the beginning of
the second century C.E.) expressed an extremely harsh opposition to women’s
Torah study: “Anyone who teaches his daughter Torah teaches her tiflut”
(BT Sotah 21b). The word tiflut is defined in two ways: 1) sexual license or
lewdness. It is feared that the woman will learn how to outwit her husband and
sin in secret; 2) The learning itself is considered blemished, an unnecessary thing
(Rambam on the Mishnah: Vanity and nonsense) (Mishnah Sotah 3:4).
The Jerusalem Talmud (JT) notes the opinion of Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, the
Tanna mentioned above: “Women’s wisdom is solely in the spindle.” He added,
“The words of the Torah should be burned rather than entrusted to women”
(JT Sotah 3:4, 19a). The same mishnaic verse includes another opinion, that of
Ben Azzai (early second century C.E.): “One must teach his daughter Torah so
that if she must drink [the water that tests her fidelity if she is a sotah—a
suspected adulteress], she will know that the merit postpones her punishment.”
Ben Azzai’s paradigm is that women should understand the commandments and
their meanings. There is no opinion that women should be taught in order to
develop their knowledge and love of Torah and mitzvot, but only so that they will
not disregard the power of the bitter waters—the essence of judgment, or, in
another interpretation, so that the merit of Torah study will protect them if they
are indeed guilty of adultery.
Another opinion is that of Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah (first-second
century C.E.): “‘Gather the men, women and children’—since the men come to
learn Torah and the women come to hear, why do the children come?”
(JT Sotah 3:4, 19a). . . .
Although there were Talmudic statements referring to women’s detailed knowledge of Torah in the past, this was clearly viewed as an exception and not to be encouraged. In this kind of societal context, Jewish sentiment on the subject made Paul’s admonition that women should be listening in order to “learn” a radical teaching indeed!
Most alternate translations of “with all submission” (2:11) explicitly retain the idea of that person being subject to the leadership and authority of someone else in that particular social context and for that particular purpose: we read of “full submission” (NIV), “entire submissiveness” (NASB), “with all submissiveness” (ESV, NET), “entire submissiveness”(Weymouth), “with full submission” (Holman), “submissively” (ISV) and “with all subjection” (WEB). Only “in keeping with her position” (GW) is vaguer.
The specific context is that of receiving the religious instruction that occurs in a church assembly context--note the “teach” that is prohibited in verse 12. Some seem to shift the emphasis from not being a public preacher of the gospel to the attitude when one hears that teaching.
Hence it is
argued that the language “perhaps means” that women “should
accept with humility and obedience what is taught to them.” Note the all encompassing nature of that
assertion: how can
that, in practice, meaning anything other than that they should accept
anything and everything they are taught?
Whatever else one may deduce from this passage that
absurdity is nothing short of ludicrous.
It would be equivalent to teaching the women to be credulous. Paul could hardly rebuke the gullibility of
too many older women (“old wives fables,” 1 Timothy 4:7) and be encouraging
that kind of mind frame here or anywhere else.
When Paul warns “let no one deceive you with empty words” (Ephesians 5:6) and “let no one deceive you by any means” (2 Thessalonians 2:3), does he intend that all males should be on guard but women should not worry about the danger at all? When Paul warned of the need to “test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians ), was he intending that injunction just to apply to the male folks? Of course not!
The challenging of the speaker is to be left to the husband or, if done by the woman, to a time outside the church services. She was never designed to have an unthinking, uncritical mind. Respectful--just as men should be--yes; credulous no.
“I do not permit” () is occasionally modernized into more contemporary language, as in “I don’t permit” (WEB). More commonly the alternative is “I do not allow” (Holman, NASB, NET) or a variant form of it is substituted: “I am not allowing” (ISV, NET) or “I don’t allow” (GW).
“To teach” () specifies the subject under consideration. At least one version prefers to expand the translation slightly into, “in the area of teaching” (ISV).
“To have authority over a man” () can be found with the variants “assume authority over a man” (NIV) and “exercise authority over a man” (ESV, NASB, NET, WEB). A major departure from the norm is “to instigate conflict toward a man” (ISV).
The connotation would cover such things as “ ‘to lord it over men,’ ‘to dictate men,’ ‘to dominate men’ ” and these are presented by Greek language specialists as reasonable equivalents. The idea, of course, is not to demean women’s talents, but simply to convey that this is not their Divinely ordained role or place in a church service.
Could the admonition be targeting her interrupting what her husband has to say? (Note that the marital relationship of Adam and Eve is promptly introduced.) Arichea and Hatton argue that the “suggestion is attractive in view of the context.” But would Paul encourage even males to do this except under the most unusual circumstances? Would such permission not endanger the orderliness intended for the church gathering? Indeed even in that era of miraculously provided gifts to certain participants, Paul insists that others are to “keep silent” as each speaks one at a time (1 Corinthians -33). Interruptions are clearly not on the agenda for anyone.
They concede that as of the publication of their book in 1995, no contemporary translation had yet embraced this approach. Since then things have changed a bit and two translations think it is husband-wife relationships that is in mind rather than male/female. The Common English Bible (2011) speaks of how “I don’t allow a wife to teach or to control her husband. Instead, she should be a quiet listener.” The Orthodox Jewish Bible (2002) has this rendering: “I do not allow an isha (wife) either to have teaching authority over or to have hishtaltut (domination, taking control) over [her] man, but to be in silence.” Oddly enough the 19th century Young’s Literal Translation (so loved by those for whom even the KJV is not “literal” enough) has a reading fairly close to this idea: “And a woman I do not suffer to teach, nor to rule a husband, but to be in quietness.”
Even if the specific male under discussion is her husband--it is hard to imagine any rationale for limiting the restriction to only that one marital male. Hence even if Paul could in part be putting this restriction in place because of the need to require her husband to take his appropriate role in the church meeting--and not to be distracted from it by interruptions from his spouse--could that possibly be all he intended? Does Paul’s omission of other husbands have left her free to hinder their role in the church meeting? Since this is utterly improbable, he must have been intending a principle applicable to all male-female teaching relationships.
Another possible way of freeing women to control the assembly through their speaking and teaching is to take the admonition as aimed not so much at women targeting their spouse for interruption but at doing so for any male teacher. . . .
“But to be in silence” (). Some
retain the emphasis on silence, as in “remain silent” (
All of these, theoretically, could have the connotation of not interrupting the speaker. The adoption of, “to remain calm” (ISV) could be read in that manner as well. The Complete Jewish Bible (1998) speaks of how “she is to remain at peace.” Hence one could take these and contend that Paul is advocating self-control in contrast with being so agitated that she interrupts what is being said. Whether she can properly be a public teacher of the gospel, then, is not under consideration at all in spite of the impression the normal reading of the text leaves.
So one can dissect the parts and reassemble them to come up with this result, but is this the normal connotation that one would put on the words? Is that the conclusion we would come to when we work from the text to an interpretation . . . or it is only the meaning we arrive at if we start with the interpretation that is desired and then read it back into the text?
For that matter does anyone really believe that it was right for any male to act in such a manner as to grab control over the class and disrupt it? Remember that Paul is contrasting the role of the male and the female in teaching. Would he, even for a second, give to any male listener the “right” he is supposedly denying to the female?
So we have both the “natural reading” of the passage and the fact that the revised interpretation would have been repudiated by the apostle for both genders and not just the female. It is hard to see how the interpretation remains viable! Therefore it has to convey a different message. And what else is it than women are not to take on the role of teachers or preachers in the church assembly?
What we do not know is whether Paul’s concern is with what was already a significant problem or one that was simply “simmering” in the background—not yet rising to the level of a major congregational difficulty but which had the clear potential for doing so. One can easily imagine, for example, an unusually educated woman seeking more opportunities. Or women operating in a deaconess style function—whether occupying the formal office or not—and they or their friends quite understandably wondering: “I’ve done this quite well. What other challenges can I undertake?”
It would be legitimate and quite understandable. And if the woman were especially capable or from a prestigious leading family, it would be necessary for someone with special “standing” in the eyes of the congregation to answer the matter authoritatively. Who better, upon hearing of the potential problem, than an apostle himself? Someone beyond having any local “axe to grind” and who would be envolved solely in order to sort out the proprieties and improprieties envolved.
the teaching by women of males in their own family was not prohibited: Indeed it seems impossible to read 2 Timothy
1:5 without concluding that Timothy learned Christianity from his mother and
grandmother. Nor was there a blanket
prohibition of women teaching non-family males either. When the eloquent orator Apollos
showed up in the very city this epistle was written to,
What we seem to clearly have in 1 Timothy 2 is a prohibition of women preaching in the worship services and the need to allow the males to play their appointed role in running it. Feminists bemoan such as “oppression.” A cynical male such as myself sees it as Paul kicking the rear ends of the males to assure they do what they should have been doing already. You fellows think you are the “head of your house?” Then how about showing some leadership in the worship services—some initiative, some active envolvement!
Note carefully that Paul is teaching male leadership (1) in teaching and preaching and (2) in the church assembly. He conspicuously does not lay down a rule over such a matter as to life in general. For consideration of those matters, one must go to different passages and principles entirely.
One, more limited, issue is whether Paul is specifically talking about women in general or married women in particular. All translations concur in using the word “women” in rendering verses 11 and 12. However, contextually it is married women of whom he speaks since he cites as authoritative precedent the married woman Eve and her relationship to her spouse, Adam. Widows under sixty were expected to remarry if at all possible (1 Timothy 5:9-11) and young unmarried females normally did so as well unless there was a very good reason otherwise (such as persecution, for example: 1 Corinthians 7:25-27). Hence it would naturally be expected that they act with a parallel restraint as well in the interim.
Without considering the relevance of 1 Timothy 2 to those temporarily unmarried as we have just done, Peter Kriewaldt argues strongly from a different standpoint against the possibility that any woman would be exempt from the teaching:
In this periscope, gyne must mean woman, not wife. Gynaikas (verse 9) and gynaiksin (verse 10) refer to female worshipers. Gyne (verse 11) must also mean “woman,” not “wife.” Furthermore, it is clear that Paul has Genesis 2-3 in mind in these verses (the creation and fall accounts). Following the Septuagint, when Paul means “wife” he uses gyne with a personal pronoun and when he means “woman’ he uses gyne without a pronoun. Gyne appears in this passage without a personal pronoun, so Paul must be speaking of women generally rather than wives specifically.
Or to perhaps word it slightly better: “Paul must be speaking of all women and not just wives.”
(4) The Precedent for These Limitations on Women’s Worship Authority (-14): “13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.”
This line of reasoning is grounded in neither the dominant culture, apostolic revelation, or even the Mosaical Law: it is grounded in the Divine scheme from creation itself. He regards his teaching as reflecting that ancient and fundamental a premise. And there are two “sub-arguments” supporting this being the Divine “original intent.” Neither stands alone; each reinforces the other.
First, there was the order of creation: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” Since he is attempting to prove the inherent right of the male to church leadership, it is hard to see the term “first” as merely limited to chronological order. For it to constitute the kind of argument Paul is clearly intending, it also has to “carry with it a position of leadership, authority, and responsibility” as well.
Second, there was the order of transgression being introduced in the reverse order—first the wife and then the husband: “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (). The two key words concern cause and effect. The cause is being “deceived” and the consequence is “transgression.” “Deceived” is retained as the wording for all ten of our comparative translations.
“Fell into transgression” is
retained by both NASB
and NET. Some form of similar language
is invoked by three more versions: “and
transgressed” (Holman), “involved in transgression” (
Although one could read our text and argue that Paul is saying that women are denied leadership as a result or consequence of Eve’s sin, that would be a massive oversimplification of Paul’s position: He was quite capable of putting the responsibility for sin squarely on Adam’s shoulders and not even mention Eve—and do so at length rather than in one passing mention as here (Romans 5:12-21).
His argument is primarily grounded in the creation order (2:13) and, almost as if to say “and if you don’t think that is enough,” he stresses that she was also the first to actually transgress the one prohibition that God had enjoined on them both (2:14). The male has the created order in his defense of leadership while the woman not only did not have that but also carried the burden of being the first to sin.
If we read this as rooted in husband to wife superiority in authority—and Adam and Eve do represent the prototype of husband and wife since they were the first couple and married to each other rather than single--this cuts both ways as to responsibility and authority. It means the wife has less and the husband more.
On the other hand, it also means it is an insult to God’s original intention for a husband to refuse to carry out the responsibilities of being “superior” in position—in the religious, family, or any other sphere of life. Modern theory wants to emphasize what women lost. A more balanced approach would be on what males gained and do not always want, compelling the male to take initiatives he might well prefer not to.
If women do tend to be more religious than males--and that truism does seem to normally hold up--then the tendency to push religious matters onto the shoulder of the wife as “women’s work” insults the very “hierarchical order” that God wanted to be observed. You can’t rightly have the “benefits” of position without taking on the responsibilities of it as well.
As to why creation and the fall would be linked together in this manner, the logic would seemingly be that in being created first the male gained a claim to precedence, but so far it was only an empty honor. Authority might or might not go with it though the first person in anything is normally given a certain preference and leadership prerogative since they were “there first.” But as to real “authority,” that is far from certain. However it was only in the female falling into sin first that God saw fit to formalize the relationship as “superior” and “lesser”—in authority and that was as part of Eve’s punishment.
Chrysostom effectively argued that it was at this point that what was at most a theoretical superiority became something far more important and real. He expressed his thought this way in his Homilies on First Corinthians (26:2):
For with us indeed the woman is reasonably subjected to the man, since equality of honor causes contention. And not for this cause only, but by reason also of the deceit which happened in the beginning. You see Eve was not subjected in her original condition as she was made. Nor was she called to submission when God first brought her to the man. She did not hear anything from God then about submissiveness. Nor did Adam originally say any such word to her. Rather he said indeed that she was “bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh,” but of rule or subjection he mentioned nothing.
This occurred only after she made an ill use of her privilege. She who had been made a helper was found to be an ensnarer. Then the original relation was ruined, and she was justly told for the future: “your turning shall be to your husband” (Genesis ).
Or as English translations typically put it, “he will rule over you.”
Paul does not specify some peculiar
female weakness that had developed among women in
What happened later might well be argued about as to relative merits of the male and female, but what happened in the creation era itself is grounded in the direct statements of scripture in its earliest chapters. To him this “creation pattern” should put the question “beyond challenge” because of what it was rooted in.
Aside: Feminist interpreters typically argue that this “created order” is set aside and transformed into the “redemptive order” of “neither male nor female” in Galatians 3:28. But the same apostle wrote both epistles: how in the world could he so blatantly contradict himself? To him, “equality” did not exclude leadership posts being male specific.
Furthermore, First Timothy was written not over fifteen years later. Hence, even if he had not been guided by Divine inspiration, one would except this to be his more “settled conclusion” rather than the other. Paul feels no need to explicitly point out that unmarried women were under the same obligation because the societal and personal norm of the vast bulk of the population was marriage. Indeed, Paul taught that marriage was the only realistic situation for most people (1 Corinthians 7:1-2, 7) and that only a compelling reason was the proper grounds for not entering into it (persecution, for example in verse 26).
Furthermore that he considered the male-female church leadership relationship to be the same outside of marriage as within, is seen from the fact that he only mentions how women can’t serve in that role and never mentions any exception for single women. If the Ephesian congregation were half-way “decent size” surely there were some present!
For further, detailed discussion of objections to the teaching of these 1 Timothy verses, consult the volume on Church Leadership Controversies that concludes this series. Among the varied topics discussed there is a section on “Attacking the Reasonableness of Paul’s Restrictions on Women Teachers Based on Adamic Precedent (2:13-14).”
(5) Neither Such Restrictions Nor the Events of
the Fall in the Garden of
Two major points are made in verse 15: Just as males have a distinct obligation in teaching and preaching, women have one males simply can’t perform—quite literally so. Childbearing has a salvation aspect for married women—they will be “saved in childbearing.” Three potential meanings are possible. The first is that her spiritual salvation, her chance for heaven, in part, hinges upon having children if she is capable. “Saved in childbearing” fits that very well as do “saved through childbearing” (ESV, Holman) and “through the bearing of children” (NASB).
The Bible is well aware that not
all women are able to have children, but the vast bulk are. “Rules” are usually established for the
general pattern and not the occasional exception and Paul would be laying down
this requirement on that basis. From
the standpoint of society, if there is no next generation, there is no society.
As of 2015, such a “Doomsday
scenario” is facing a number of European countries,
The interpretation can be finessed a bit by arguing that a woman is saved, in part, through the effort to bear children—whether that effort is successful or not. This approach has been argued against because of the application to our text of a common Protestant assumption: “. . . [T]his would make women’s salvation from sin a matter of works on her part, and it is inconceivable that Paul could mean this and so contradict the whole of his witness for salvation by grace apart from human effort or merit.”
If logically applied this would mean that our
salvation can not be conditioned on our human behavior—indeed, on any
form of our behavior by either male or female. When we are commanded to demonstrate love in
our lives (1 Corinthians 13), does anyone really believe that Paul
considers it irrelevant to whether we are saved since we “only” need grace and
faith? The full gospel picture is
that salvation is the result of our faith expressed not just intellectually
but also in our behavioral actions so
often called “works.”
It is also rooted in what we don’t do: When Paul rebuked the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21, he conditions our salvation on what we omit from our lives. This has nothing to do with grace and faith; it is in addition to grace and faith.
possible intent of Paul in encouraging childbearing is to teach that the
inherent risk of childbearing—especially in his day and age—would be escaped. “Brought safely through childbirth” (
But not fully safe, even today. “In the
At least one professor of history ranks the death rate far higher than this--including in the first century: “Their death rates were about the same as in any culture from prehistory up until the late 19th century: probably about a third of all women died in childbirth (not necessarily in their first childbirth). Yes, that’s appalling. Mostly the reasons were pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure), the baby getting stuck on the way out, hemorrhaging, or infections (so that many women died a week or two after giving birth).”
Paul might opt for emphasizing optimistic outcomes, but would he really do so as a blanket promise? (And that is what he seems to be doing in regard to the salvation mentioned in our text.) Would he not be dropping a “big load of guilt” on those families where the mother does die? Or is he assuming miraculous intervention in all such cases? And does anyone really want to contend that such routinely occurred?
The third possibility is that Paul wishes to stress that the very possibility of human salvation was made possible through childbearing when Mary bore Jesus. The capitalization (a Deity/Jesus allusion being intentional in the usage of such) is clearly intended when the ISV speaks of how one “will be saved through the birth of the Child” (ISV). Although the GW does not use capitalization to convey the point, its rendering is most appropriate if only one specific child is in mind, “through the birth of the child.”
In a sermonic context, A. Rowland concisely sums up this approach: “The more correct translation gives us rather the thought of what may be called pre-eminently ‘the childbearing’--when Jesus Christ, the world’s Savior, was born of a woman, and appeared in the likeness of sinful flesh--for it was thus that the great promise was fulfilled which brought a gleam of hope into the darkness of Eve’s despair, ‘the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head.’ ”
Stuart Allen brings these factors to bear against the Jesus Christ interpretation of our text:
If this is what Paul really meant he could hardly have used a more ambiguous way of saying it. The Greek article is generic, describing the whole process of child-bearing, rather than one particular instance. Does the Scripture anywhere teach that the virgin Mary was saved and her sins cancelled, because she bore the Savior?
An excellent point on the ambiguity of the text—though it is hardly the only case in the New Testament. The point on the Greek wording similarly needs to be taken quite seriously.
The reasoning about Mary herself, however, is overstated: Salvation in verse 15 is also conditioned upon “continu[ing] in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.” In other words, child bearing was part of it, but only part.
The insistence upon child-bearing carries with it an implicit condemnation of the popular acceptance of abortion to avoid giving birth to children. It is fascinating that two thousand years later there should continue to be a fascination with abortion to the point that many now think it is an inherent female right. At least back then, the far greater danger of death provided a more rational excuse than today.
Juvenal wrote that it was virtually universal among the well-to-do: “Childbirth hardly ever occurs in a gold-embroidered bed since abortionists have such skills and so many potions, and can bring about the death of children in the womb.”
In contrast, even the sensuality-centered Ovid drew the line at abortion as crossing a vile behavioral line. (Some suspect that a mistress of his died due to one.) He wrote that:
She who first
began the practice of tearing out her tender progeny deserved to die in her own
warfare. Can it be that, to be free of
the flaws of stretchmarks, you have to scatter the
tragic sands of carnage? Why will you
subject your womb to the weapons of abortion and give dread poisons to the
unborn? The tigress lurking in
Regardless of how often abortion may--or may not--have occurred in the ancient Jewish community in particular, there were unquestionably strong elements of hostility to it. The ESV Study Bible contains these remarks:
The noncanonical Jewish wisdom literature further clarifies first-century
Judaism’s view of abortion. For example, the Sentences of Pseudo-
Phocylides 184–186 (c. 50 B.C.–A.D. 50) says that “a woman should not destroy
the unborn in her belly, nor after its birth throw it before the dogs and vultures as
a prey.” Included among those who do evil in the apocalyptic Sibylline
Oracles were women who “aborted what they carried in the womb” (2.281–282).
Similarly, the apocryphal book 1 Enoch (2nd or 1st century B.C.) declares that an
evil angel taught humans how to “smash the embryo in the womb” (69.12).
Finally, the first-century Jewish historian Josephus wrote that “the law orders all
the offspring to be brought up, and forbids women either to cause abortion or to
make away with the fetus” (Against Apion 2.202).
Even though Paul tells us that childbearing has a salvational aspect to it for the married woman, that does not mean it will occur without key moral values being cultivated as well. Paul lists four in particular.
But before we get to those we must notice that the expected female wording does not occur. Instead the list begins with “if they continue in” and this is the normal translation one will find. Indeed this is explicitly the wording of the underlying Greek text.
Instead a greater number take it as a reference to her and her children. This would seem to carry the weight that the principle Paul is laying down is an inter-generational one. Whatever rules apply to the current generation will continue to apply to the next one as well.
A few translations render it, “if she [i.e., the child-bearer herself] continues in” but that is a rarity (in our comparison list, only Holman and NET). “Scholars almost unanimously agree that the reference is to the woman.” How then does one explain then seemingly odd plural “they”? Bratcher continues by noting that, “it is not too unusual in Greek to move from the singular to the plural, especially when the singular, as in this case, is generic.” In other words Paul is emphasizing that this teaching applies to all married women and not just some--to the class or category of women rather than just to some specific individual.
(1) “Faith.” Faith is not something designed to be restricted to the narrowest spectrum of our life—church services. It is something designed to be the motivational foundation for our entire lifestyle. For our many behavioral decisions. It provides us a reason to act the way we do that is independent of our personal preferences since it is firmly rooted in God’s revelation through the Scriptures.
(2) “Love.” Too often “love” gets restricted to little more than “feeling good” about another. In reality it envolves active good will as demonstrated in 1 Corinthians 13. It motivates us to put first the positive and constructive options that are open to us. And, negatively, to crush the temptation to treat others in the manner that they may well “deserve,” but which are insulting, spiteful, and full of revenge.
(3) “Holiness.” Comparative translations: “Growing holiness” (
Joel Scandrett sums up the two-fold nature of “holiness” both concisely and well:
To be sure, biblical terms translated “holy” or ‘holiness” (qadosh, hagios) carry a strong secondary connotation of moral purity. But moral purity is not, first and foremost, what Scripture is talking about. Instead, the most basic meaning of the word is to be “set apart” or “dedicated” to God—to belong to God. “I will be your God, and you will be my people,” says Yahweh (Leviticus 26:12; Hebrews ). Thus, prior to any consideration of morality, biblical holiness describes a unique relationship that God has established and desires with his people.
This relationship has moral ramifications, but it precedes moral behavior. Before we are ever called to be good, we are called to be holy. Unless we rightly understand and affirm the primacy of this relationship, we fall into the inevitable trap of reducing holiness to mere morality. . . .
At bottom, God’s call to be holy is a radical, all-encompassing claim on our lives, our loves, and our very identities. . . . To be holy means that all we are and all we have belongs to God, not ourselves, and that every aspect of our lives is to be shaped and directed toward God.
“Self-control.” Comparative translations: Substitutes such as “self-restraint” (NASB)
and “habitual self-restraint” (
Unless we learn to control ourselves, we inevitably get ourselves into situations where, at the best, we look like fools and, at the worst, we get our nose smashed in because we’ve pushed one person too many beyond their breaking point. A root premise of New Testament teaching is that we can control ourselves. That doesn’t mean that there are never times when we’ve been pushed too far. It does mean that our basic mind frame is disciplined and under leash. “Losing it” is to be at least rare and, hopefully, eliminated.
When our internal self-control mechanism is set on “high patience” rather than “maximum indignation,” any problems that occur will be someone else’s fault rather than our own. With some folks, it’s not a question of whether they will get mad. It’s only a question of what they’ll get mad at today. That’s the last kind of person that God wants us to be.
As noted in the alternative translations “self-control” is not the only way the underlying Greek text can responsibly be read. Indeed “self-control” is most naturally read, as we just did, as a kind of “negative” reference--i.e. referring to our effort to avoid morally weakening behaviors. Luke T. Johnson suggests we miss the point if we do this. He argues that the only other place the term is used in this epistle is in 2:9 and there it carries a positive connotation (“with propriety,” NKJV). Furthermore “the positive character of the other virtues listed [means] it is best to read sōphrosynē here also in the broad sense of ‘moral discretion/prudence.’ ” In other words it isn’t so much that we avoid doing the wrong as that we cultivate a mind frame where that is the natural course of our life.
 Allen, 273.
 Witherington, 217-218.
 Earle, 361.
 Cf. the
discussion in Larry Solomon, “What Does Modesty Mean
in 1 Timothy 2:9?,” part of the Biblical Gender
Roles website. At:
 [Unidentified Author], “What Did Jesus
 Luke T. Johnson, Letters, 200.
 As quoted by Kenneth S. Guthrie (Compiler and Translator), The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library: An Anthology of Ancient Writings Which Relate to Pythagoras and Pythagorean Philosophy (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Phanes Press, 1988), 264.
 As quoted by Mary E. Waithe (Editor), Ancient Women Philosophers: 600 B.C.-500 A.D. (Dordrecht, Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1987), 33
 [Unidentified Author], “What Is Meant by ‘Modest Apparel’ in 1 Timothy 2:9-10 & 1 Peter 3:3-5.” At: http://www.godrules.net/articles/modest-apparel.htm. (Accessed: October 2016.)
 Lady Bellairs on 2:9, as quoted in Exell, Illustrator.
 Luke T. Johnson, Letters, 200.
 Rachel Kearn, “Torah Study,” part of the Jewish Women’s Archive Encyclopedia. At:
https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/torah-study. (Accessed: October 2019.) Kearn attempts to find tolerance for females learning Torah in the closing quote by suggesting that the author may have meant learning in a different manner than the males. She puts first the most obvious conclusion that the rabbi didn’t want women to “touch” scripture--period.
 Arichea and Hatton, 58.
 Bratcher, 25.
 Arichea and Hatton, 58-59.
 Peter Kriewaldt, “1 Corinthians 14:33b-38, 1 Timothy 2:11-24, and
the Ordination of Women,” in Women Pastors?
The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspection,
edited by Matthew C. Harrison and John T. Pless (
 Ibid., Peter, 53.
 Charles A. Gieschen, “Ordained Proclaimers or Quiet Learners? Women in Worship in Light
of 1 Timothy 2,” in Women Pastors?
The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective, edited by
Matthew C. Harrison and John T. Pless (
 Ibid., 84.
 Gordy, 165-166.
 This appears to be the point of Bernhard Mutschler, “Eschatology in the Pastoral Epistles,” in Eschatology of the New Testament and Some Related Documents, edited by Jan G. Van Der Watt (Tubingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2011), 367.
 Allen, 275.
 Earle,362, writes as if he considers this a major objection to this interpretation even in our era.
 Laura Helmuth, “The
Disturbing, Shameful History of Childbirth Deaths, Slate magazine. At:
 Karen Carr, “Why Did So Many Women Die In Childbirth In Ancient Rome?,” Quora magazine. At: https://www.quora.com/Why-did-so-many-women-die-giving-childbirth-in-ancient-Rome. Dated March 2017. (Accessed: October 2019.)
 A. Rowland on in Exell, Illustrator.
 Allen, 275-276.
 Juvenal, Satires, 6.593ff, as quoted by Bruce W. Winter, Roman Wives, Roman Widows: The Appearance of New Women and the Pauline Communities (Grand Rapids, Michigan, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003) page 111.
 Ovid, Amores, as quoted by Ibid., 110.
 As quoted by Justin Taylor, “Abortion And The Early Church,” at: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/abortion-and-early-church/.
 Bratcher, 26.
 Implied by Ibid.
 Joel Scandrett, “What Does God Mean When He Asks Us To Be Holy As
He Is Holy?”;
Christian Bible Studies at the Christianity Today
website. At: http://www.christianitytoday.com/biblestudies/bible-answers/theology/what-does-god-mean-when-he-asks-us-to-be-holy.html?start=2. Dated:
 Luke T. Johnson, Letters, 203.