Monday, July 11, 2011

Women Teaching Men

We sometimes meet people who struggle with the question of whether Paul's charge for women to "be silent" in 1 Timothy 2 is still relevant for today. The contention seems to be that Paul was speaking only to a situation facing the first century church. Allow me to reiterate some of the reasons why Paul's charge to the women is, without question, universal in scope.

First, Paul's instruction is in the context of his charge to the local church in general. In Chapter 3 Paul states that his reason for writing this epistle was to give instruction regarding the order of every church (1 Timothy 3:14-15). At the beginning of this section in 1 Timothy 2 Paul gives instruction for prayer in the church. He charges the men using a word that speaks of men in contrast to boys and in contrast to women. He charges them to pray "in every place," implying that the women were not to speak "in every place," that is, in the assembly of the local church. There is nothing in this that appears to address a particular local situation. Rather, Paul is giving instruction that applies to every church.

Second, Paul addresses the besetting sins that are particular to men and women of all ages. For the men, they are to guard against strife, quarrels, and aggression (verse 8). This is universal in scope. Men are naturally more aggressive than women. It was Cain who killed Abel. The number of men incarcerated for violent crimes far exceeds that of women. For the women, they are to guard against inordinate attention to personal appearance (verse 9). This is also universal in scope. The fashion, cosmetic, and jewelry industries are primarily supported by women. Obviously, Paul wasn't speaking of a particular, local situation here. Rather he was speaking of something that applies universally to man and women.

Third, Paul recognizes the consistent principle of masculine headship that God established at creation. Adam was created first from the dust of the ground. Eve was formed from Adam as his helper and she was named "woman" in relationship to the man (Genesis 2:22). God gave his covenant to Adam and held Adam accountable for its breach (original sin coming through him). Paul links this passage in 1 Timothy 2 to Eve's sin in Genesis 3. In 1 Timothy 2:11 he charges women to a place of submission. In verse 12 he forbids them from the exercise of teaching men in the church. Then in verses 13-14 he connects it to Eve's sin. What exactly was the nature of Eve's sin? She rejected Adam's role as her head and leader. Instead she took charge of the situation. She examined the fruit and found it good; she made the decision to partake of the fruit; and she took the position as the leader in her home by giving the fruit to her husband. In essence Paul is saying, I do not allow a woman to teach or assume authority over the man because this is exactly what Even did.

In other words, Paul was not addressing a particular, localized situation. Rather, he is speaking of a principle going back to creation, one that applies to men and women for all generations.