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Topic 7: 1 Timothy 2:8-15: Part 1: Pastoral advice


This is the first in a number of brief studies focusing on 1 Timothy 2:8-15.

1 Timothy 2:8-15: [8] I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy handswithout anger or quarreling; [9] also that women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire [10] but by good deeds, as befits women who profess religion.  [11] Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness.  [12] I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent.  [13] For Adam was formed first, then Eve; [14] and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.  [15] Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

 This passage is central to the discussion of women’s roles in the church, especially in regard to the question of ordination.  The Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in its September 1985 document, “Women in the Church,” interprets this passage to deny women the rite of ordination.

◆ “In 1 Tim. 2:12 St. Paul instructs the church, “Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness.  I permit no woman to teach or have authority over man; she is to keep silent.”  Again on the basis of Scriptural arguments, the apostle holds in this text that women are not to take the position of one to whom is assigned responsibility for the formal, public proclamation of the Christian faith” (CTCR- “The Service of  Women …16 November 1994”).

◆ “In 1 Timothy 2:13-14 (R.S.V.) man is ascribed a superiority in the worship services, because ‘Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.’  The woman has her origin and purpose in life in man” (Surburg, “The Place of Women in the Old Testament,” The Springfielder [Vol. XXXIII, No. 4, March 1970] pg. 27).

◆ “If we have the same writer in both letters writing on the same matter, we have the right to allow one text to explain the other, and especially to let the clearer on more definite throw light on the less precise.  So 1 Tim. 2 is the key for the understanding of 1 Cor. 14” (Hamann, “The New Testament and the Ordination of Women,” pg. 5).

✔ “Many … view all biblical passages about the role and ministry of women through the lens of 1 Timothy 2:12.  It becomes the key verse on women, the one on which all others turn” (Kroeger, I Suffer Not a Woman: Rethinking 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in Light of Ancient Evidence, pg. 12).

✔ “Without 1 Timothy 2:11-15, traditionally interpreted, there would be no case at all for the universal restriction of women in ministry” (Groothius,  Good News for Women, pg. 211).

Paul is writing to address a concrete historical situation, and the Scriptures here give us a divinely inspired example of pastoral practice and Gospel application.

(A) “[vs 8] … I desire then …. [vs 12] … I permit no woman to ….”: such wording suggests Paul is giving pastoral advice in a given situation.

(B) That Paul says “I permit” instead of “thus says the Lord” (as he does elsewhere; cf. 1 Corinthians 7:25; 11:23) suggests that he is making a pastoral application and/or correction of a certain locally specific problem.

(C) Paul does not assume that Timothy already knows this instruction.

(D) “Verse 12 … begins with Paul’s own personal instruction (I do not allow; better, ‘I am not allowing,’ implying specific instruction to this situation)…” (Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy, pg. 35).  (The verb epitrepo is a present active indicative.)

(E)  He is not laying down a timeless and universal restriction that he received from God, but addressing a local, time-bound behavioral and/or doctrinal aberration.

(F) Some exegetes would understand the dress code in 1 Timothy 2:9 (in the same paragraph) as culturally relative, yet the instruction in verses 11-12 is considered universally permanent.  This is not good exegetical logic.

(G) “[vs 8] … every place…”: Paul’s instruction is not limited to either the home (private) or the house church (public) locale.  The issue here is not the ecclesial position of women regarding worship leadership, but proper decorum.

(H) Paul makes the same point in 1 Corinthians 7 where he distinguishes between divinely inspired pastoral application of the Gospel and a universally binding “word from the Lord.”

(1) 1 Corinthians 7:12: “…To the rest I say, not the Lord, that if …”: Paul himself distinguishes between his advice and the Lord’s command.

(2) “[vs 6] … I do not give this as a binding rule.  I state it as what is allowable” (translation by Lightfoot given in Key, pg. 405).

(3) We also see this in verse 17: “This is my rule in all the churches.

(4) “[vs 25]: …I have no command from the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy…”

(5) In Chapter 7 Paul seeks to work out the relationship between male and female on the basis of parity in Christ.  Paul, in giving advice, applies the Gospel pastorally to concrete ministry situations;  yet he distinguishes between the Lord’s command and “my advice” so that he does not inappropriately bind Christian consciences with his advice.

(6) Inspired Scripture includes examples of pastoral practice and advice, not to bind us to cultural norms of another age, but to provide us instruction in how to apply Law and Gospel in various circumstances and conditions.

(7) We need to take seriously in our exegesis that some passages may be just this kind of example, instruction for a particular time and place and a certain group of people, and not a principle which binds for all times.