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Topic 8: 1 Timothy 2:8-15: Part 2: Context


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

The context of 1 Timothy 2:8-13 suggests that Paul is addressing the issue of husband and wife relationships, not general male/female rankings, and not public ministry issues.

(A) What is the larger context?`

(1) Acts 20:30-31 suggests Paul’s concern: “I know that after I  leave, savage wolves will come in among you and not spare the flock…”

(2) 1 Timothy 3:14-15 suggests the problem is behavior: “…you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church…”

(3) The Greek didasko appears twenty times, and Paul speaks of his teaching and Timothy’s teaching and the teaching of church elders.

(4) 1 Timothy 1:3 indicates the problem basically is false doctrine.

(B)  “[vs 8] … men …  [vs 9] ..women … [10] …women .. [11] …woman …  [12] woman  men …”: The context suggests that Paul is addressing wives and husbands, not just men and women in general:

(1) gune can be translated “wife” as well as “woman.”

(2) aner is used five times in 1 Timothy, three times (1 Timothy 3:2, 3:12, and 5:9) outside this passage.  In the three passages outside this passage the word means “husbands,” not males in general.

(3) The larger context suggests “wife” as the translation here: compare similarities with 1 Timothy 2:9-15, 1 Corinthians 14:34-36, 1 Peter 3:1-17, all of which relate to wives.

(4) The usages of aner and gune in this passage can well be translated “husbands” and “wives” instead of “men” and “women.”

(5) 1 Timothy 2:13-14 has allusions to Genesis 2 and 3 which relate to the institution of marriage (Genesis 2:24) and Adam and Eve, the “first couple.”

(6) “When he [Paul] does not use anar as husband, the passage is very clear that he is referring to the adult male human; e.g. 1 Cor. 11.12: ‘For just as the woman is from the man, so also the man is through the woman …;’ 1 Cor. 13:11b: ‘When I became a man …;’ etc.  Only two passages are not that absolutely clear, the two verses in our text: ‘I desire that the man should pray …’ and ‘I do not permit a woman to teach or to govern a man.’  Only these two passages seem  ambiguous.  Shall we then be absolutely dogmatic in insisting that these two instances must refer to males in general and not to husbands?” (Dinda, “WORD STUDY: 1 Cor. 14.33-35 and 1 Tim. 2:8-12,” pg. 20).

(7) Even more specifically, refer again to the study by Hugenberger (“Women in Church Office: Hermenteutics or Exegesis,” pg. 354): “In summary, besides the use of aner and gyne in lists (where the terms are generally found in the plural) there are no examples where aner and gyne bear the meanings ‘man’ and ‘woman’ when the terms are found in close proximity.”

(8) Luther understands 1 Timothy 2:11-12 as referring to husband/wife relationships and not to men and women in general (Commentary on 1 Timothy, pg.276).

◆ “His instructions are directed to the worship/church setting. … The teaching that Paul forbids women to perform is the latter, namely, that of the formal, public proclamation of the Christian faith” (CTCR-WIC, page 34).

(C) The context, too, suggests that the subject is not instruction or corrective aimed at all women, but at the behavior of Christian wives (women) vis-a-vis husbands (men) within a worship context:

(1) vs 8: husbands, as is the custom, are to lead family prayers;

(2) vs 9: modest apparel in the worship setting is a sign of inward beauty;

(3) vs 10: good deeds are a sign of a faith-filled woman;

(4)  vs 12: the emphasis is behavior (wives are not to dominate or contradict husbands publicly and go against cultural custom);

(5) the reference to Eve and Adam suggests the marital context;

(6) the reference in verse 15 to childbirth suggests a family and marriage situation;

(7) vs 15: “Yet…if she continues…” focuses on the behavior issue;

(8) 2:15: Paul is writing so “you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God.”

(9) The whole discussion is summed up as a behavioral issue with the words: “with modesty” (vs. 15).

(10) Note the parallels to the husband/wife discussion in 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Peter 3.

(11) Juvenal (as quoted in Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, pg. 39): “There is nothing a woman will not permit herself to do, nothing that she deems shameful, when she encircles her neck with green emeralds and fastens huge pearls to her elongated ears … So important is the business of beautification; so numerous are the tiers and storeys piled one upon another on her head! … Meantime she pays no attention to her husband.”

(D) The context indicates the issue is the disruptive consequences of what is being taught.

(1) “[ vs 12] I permit no woman to teach.. “: Paul’s prime intent at this point is to suppress false teaching (and its practical consequences) rather than define the ecclesial role of women during worship.  The contrast is between women who are teaching unprepared (and being influenced by the Artemis cult) and the need first to learn well;

(2)  1:3: Paul discusses false teachers, and urges Timothy to remain in Ephesus in order to instruct the congregation “not to teach any different doctrine” and to engage in “divine training” (1:4);

(3) 1:5: false teachers and their speculations (1:4) stimulate “dissensions, slander, base suspicions and wrangling” (6:4-5) and cause havoc within the Christian community;

(4)  1:20: the excommunication of two of the false teachers;

(5)  2:7: Paul defends his apostolic authority over against the false teachers;

(6)  3:14-16: the false teaching is causing disruption in the practice of worship of the community; Paul reiterates the core of the Christian faith to correct heresy and to oppose the teachings of the Artemis cult;

(7) 4:6-7: a good minister nourishes the people “on the words of the faith and of good doctrine”;

(8) compare 2 Timothy 2:17-18; 4:14-15; Titus 1:9-14;

(9) 2 Timothy 3:6-7: The false teaching had found a beachhead among the women in the congregation;

(10) 1 Timothy 1:8-10; 2:9-10; 5:6-15: the excesses engaged in by the women are connected with the false doctrine.

(11) “Fee notes that ‘to talk foolishness’ is a better translation than ‘gossip’ (NIV); for this word was ‘used in contemporary philosophical texts to refer to “foolishness” that is contrary to “truth”’” (Fee quoted in Groothius, pg.213).

(E) In summary, the context supports the understanding that Paul is not addressing men/women relationships in general but instead applying pastoral wisdom in a local context to the behavior of certain Ephesian wives vis-a-vis husbands, a behavior stemming from false teaching.

What does Paul’s approach and application in this context suggest for the church at large?