1 Timothy 2 and Women

This is the second of two projects I had in mind comparing the arguments of Glenn Miller re 1 Tim. 2:11-15 and that of what is found in a special evangelical project on Biblical manhood and womanhood. We will here compare Miller with the article, "What Does It Mean Not to Teach or Have Authority Over Men" by Douglas Moo.

Moo maintains that this passage does impose "two restrictions on the ministry of women: they are not to teach Christian doctrine to men and they are not to exercise authority directly over men in the church" and that these restrictions "restrictions are permanent, authoritative for the church in all times and places and circumstances as long as men and women are descended from Adam and Eve."

Miller sees this passage as tied to a specific heretical setting in Ephesus at the time of Timothy.

I will here reiterate as I did in our prior project (on 1 Cor. 14) that I respect Moo as a scholar. However, I do believe that Moo does not successfully refute Miller's position. Let us then proceed with a comparison.

Item #1: Learning in Silence. On this point there is not much to say. Miller contextualizes this to silence and submission as a positive attribute of all learners in the first century. Miller says:

The interesting thing about this is that this was used of "future or current teachers"! Rabbincal students were generally preparing for a teaching ministry, 'wise men' and 'leaders' ALREADY were in teaching/authority roles. So, the very cast that this imperative is set in suggests a FUTURE teaching ministry for those women who learned in the proper fashion of students.

The "learning/teach others" cycle is 'standard' in Paul: And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who (nb: generic 'anthropos') will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Tim 2.2).

This becomes a bit more obvious when we compare the 'life-style' teaching given women in more traditional roles (Titus 2.4-5: Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.). There seems to be a sort of 'teacher-track' in view in I Tim 2, and a 'lay person' track in the Titus passage.

Moo says much the same as Miller about the silence/submission paradigm, but beyond this his interpretation assumes the correctness of the context he has concluded is the correct one for this passage. He acknowledges the "teaching cycle" concept but responds that this simply means the women will go on to teach other women, not men; and furthermore, what they go on to teach may be something other than what the passage prohibits. In other words, perhaps the women would teach men, but not in Christian doctrine specifically, or in the position of a formal teacher (versus informal settings):

Certainly if we mean by teaching an officially recognized activity of expositing and applying a section of Scripture, this is not the case. Neither do the texts cited by Spencer prove this. All Jewish men were encouraged to study the law; did they all become rabbis?

Logically it must be concluded that the weight of argument favors neither side here, because both sides are dependent upon how the rest of the passage is interpreted for how v. 11 is used. Moo's explanation admittedly seems more contrived - a case of the theory created to suit the fact - but can still be borne out if he succeeds in other aspects of his case.

Item #2: The Heresy Context

We move next to this aspect, which is perhaps the most critical to interpretation. Miller offers an extended analysis:

This would allow us to understand the contents of 13-15 as semi-rebuttals of the false teaching. Paul's points in verses 13-15 look something like this:
  • Adam was created before Eve
  • It was NOT Adam who was deceived, but Eve.
  • Childbearing is important and good

    IF, therefore, these are the rebuttals, what would the false teaching look like?

  • Eve was created before Adam (or at the same time?)
  • Adam was deceived; Eve was not.
  • Childbearing is 'bad'

    Another clue that Paul is only using the material in 13ff as ILLUSTRATIVE rather than DOCTRINALLY NORMATIVE comes from his use of the "Eve/Deception" motif.

    That Paul is selective in his use of Eve in 1 Timothy 2:14 seems clear from at least three other Pauline texts. In 2 Corinthians 11:3, Eve's deception is a negative model, warning all Corinthian believers--men and women--against false teaching. This shows that Paul did not limit Eve's deceivability to women. In both Romans 5:12-14 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, the apostle attributes sin and death to Adam, not Eve. (WS:WAB:210; cf. also BBC:in. loc.)

    What is curious about this text, however, is that Paul does not draw any implication/message from it--he doesn't issue a command. It is like he is only stating the proposition ITSELF (as if the content itself is the issue)….

  • "It seems certain from 2:9-15, 5:11-15, and 2 Timothy 3:6-7 that these [false teachers] have had considerable influence among some women, especially some younger widows, who according to 2 Timothy 3:6-7 have opened their homes to these teachings, and according to 1 Timothy 5:13 have themselves become propagators of the new teachings" (Fee, cited in WS:ISNW:62)
  • it involved speaking nonsense or babbling (5.13) perhaps magic (translated as 'busybodies' in the text)
  • I Tim 4.7 uses the phrases "myths" and "old women" as purveyors of them.
  • I Tim 1.4 uses the phrase "myth" and "endless genealogies"
  • I Tim 1.7 associates it with a strange view of the 'law'
  • I Tim 4.3 show that they were anti-marriage and 4.4 that they were anti-creation.
  • I Tim 5.14 suggests that the false teachers were both anti-marriage and anti-childbearing.
  • I Tim 2.5 points out that there is "ONE mediator between God and Man"
  • It also points out that there is only ONE God!

    Knight (NIGTC, p. 11) summarizes the false teaching in the Pastorals:

    The false teachers are characterized by an interest in myths (I Tim 1:4; 4:7; Tit. 1:14; 2 Tim. 4:4) and genealogies (I Tim. 1:4; Tit. 3:9), a concern with the law or a Jewish orientation (I Tim. 1:7; Tit. 1:10, 14; 3:9), an interest in "antitheses" that they identify as "knowledge" (1 Tim. 6:20), a tendency toward controversy, argumentation, and speculation (1 Tim. 1:4, 6: 6:4, 20; Tit. 1:10; 3:9; 2 Tim. 2:14, 16,23), deceptiveness (1 Tim. 4:1-3; Tit. 1:10-13: 2 Tim 3:6ff., especially v.13), immorality ( 1 Tim. 1:19, 20; Tit. 1:15, 16; 2 Ti. 2:16, 19; ch. 3), and desire to get material gain by means of their teaching (1 Tim. 6:5; Tit. 1:11; 2 Tim. 3:2, 4).

    The historical setting:

  • Ephesus was legended to have been founded by the Amazons in the 12-13 centuries BC (ISBE, s.v. "Ephesus"), and maintained one of the strongest goddess worship centers in history (WS:ISNW:47-54). This was worship of the Great Mother or maternal principle, who allegedly gave birth to both humans and the gods.

    "By the mid-third century B.C.E. Ephesus and surrounding parts of Ionia were already inhabited by Jews; and in the first century BCE, a vigorous Jewish community was able to contend successfully for its civil rights. The Jewish population may have numbered as many as seventy-five thousand persons. Many lamps bearing an inscribed menorah have been recovered, and there is evidence of the involvement of Ephesisan Jews in magic. The Jews of Asia Minor, especially those Phyrgia, had assimilated much of the culture of their surroundings, so that there was a saying, "the baths and wines of Phrygia separated the Ten Tribes from their brethren." Certain elements of Judaism, especially the biblical stories, were adopted by the larger society. At Apameia, coins minted in the reigns of three successive rulers showed Noah's ark. The legend above the box-like ark says "Noah"; but the two persons standing outside the ark indicate that the biblical account has been embellished, perhaps from the Greek flood story of Deucalion and Pyrrha." (WS:ISNW:54-55)

  • "From the earliest times in Anatolia, female religious officials known as 'old women' kept alive the ancient myths." (WS:ISNW:64).
  • "These Jewish myths or stories cannot be the traditional biblical sotires, for again and again the writer maintains that wrong teaching must be combatted with the use of Scripture...Ancient writers attest that distorted stories, including perversions of the Adam and Eve saga, were already circulating in the first century of the common era. Recent scholarship suggests that Gnostic-like myths opposed to traditional biblical values may have been afloat in Alexandria as early as the second or first century before Christ. Philo, who died in CE 45, utilizes the very theme which was to draw rebuttal by Paul; namely, mythologizing Eve as the one who brings knowledge and meaningful life to Adam" (WS:ISNW:65)
  • Full-blown Gnosticism will not emerge for another two centuries, but that a proto-Gnosticism, pre-Christian, perhaps Jewish in basis, circulated in the 1st century AD seems almost certain--the evidence we have "points not to the great Gnostic systems, but rather to a kind of Judaizing Gnosticism...as is found elsewhere" (Dibelius-Conzelmann, cited in NIGTC:28) and "there is no need...to look outside the first century, or indeed the span of Paul's life, for such an amalgam of Jewish and Gnostic traits in the Levant" (Hanson, cited in NIGTC:28).
  • The type of reverse-Bible story we have in the passage (that Eve was created first; and that Adam was the one deceived) is obviously a distortion of an OT teaching, in keeping with pre-Christian expansions/reversal stories of the time.
  • Expansions, embellishments, and even 'corrections' to the Biblical stories show up often in the Intertestamental literature--most notably the Pseudepigrapha. These do not necessarily represent "Gnostic-type" currents of thought, but they do demonstrate that people in various situations would 'change the biblical stories' for their purposes. [WS:EWEC:93-130; WS:WLT:67-82; 107-126; 145ff]
  • The cult of Artemis, the main revenue-generator and "claim to fame" for the city, was particularly woman-centered and immoral (ZPEB, s.v. "Ephesus"):

    When the son of Codrus, last king of Athens, founded the city, he placed his colonists near the shrine of an ancient Anatolian goddess whom the Greeks, following the religious syncretism common in the ancient worlds, called after their own goddess Artemis. This was perhaps in the 10th, 11th, or 12th cent. B.C., so uncertain are dates in this borderland of legend and history. The cult thus recognized was that of a nature-goddess, associated with carnal fertility rituals, orgiastic rites, and religious prostitution.

  • The success of Paul's ministry at Ephesus would no doubt have included some of the priestesses of Artemis (cf. the story of the burning of incantation scrolls by cult practitioners in Acts 19.19). Mickelsen (cited in WS: WIC: 126) shows how these might be in view in a number of the textual situations:

    In Ephesus with its huge temple to the goddess Artemis were hundreds of sacred priestesses who probably also served as sacred prostitutes. There were also hundreds of hetaerae, the most educated of Greek women who were the regular companions and often the extramarital sexual partners of upper-class Greek men. Possibly some of these women had been converted and were wearing their suggestive and expensive clothing to church. Since hetaerae were often respected teachers of men in Greece (many are named in Greek literature), they would be more likely to become teachers after they became part of the church.

    Paul, of course, had lectured in a Greek secular school for two years there (Acts 19.9), and if the pattern was anything like that in Athens (Acts 17.34), educated women were probably there and were converted under his teaching.

  • The earliest strands of proto-gnostic and proto-mystery religions we know of had the characteristics of the false teaching in the Pastorals: nonsense syllables, ritual immorality, belief that the woman (variously Eve or other primal female figures) was the source of /origination of the man, belief that this primal Woman was NOT deceived but rather 'enlightened' by the Serpent--and subsequently 'enlightened' the deceived male; obsession with spiritual genealogies, and prohibition against marriage and childbirth.

    [Cf. the childbearing issue, held up as 'good' in 1 tim 2.15 and elsewhere (WS:WAB:243): "If the passage is a reaction to a proto-Gnostic type of teaching, verse 15 becomes more comprehensible. Childbearing and marriage were forbidden by certain Gnostic groups because they pulled the soul-atoms back into material bodies instead of liberating them to ascend to their ultimate source."]

  • The detail here appears rather overwhelming, and it is difficult to see how it could be countered; and I find that this is where Moo particularly fails to deal with the data.

    Moo acknowledges that "good exegesis always takes into consideration the larger context in which a text appears." However, he makes the incredible claim that "Paul tells us remarkably little about the specifics of this false teaching" and so "we cannot be at all sure about the precise nature of this false teaching". In short, Moo takes refuge in perceived uncertainty.

    But is this truly a counter to the detailed study of Miller? I see no reason to think so, and Moo's appeal to the "many, often contradictory, scholarly reconstructions of this false teaching" is not an answer. It is no different in principle from atheists who argue for the lack of validity of the canon of the NT by appeal to the many "versions" of the canon they find in various Christian churches. One must weigh and evaluate the various approaches in light of the data, not merely appeal to a spectre of diversity as a reason to withhold judgment. (It also does not stop Moo from making a tenuous connection to events in Corinth.)

    It is our assessment that Moo's "cautious approach to this matter" is far too cautious, and a matter of not dealing with the available contextual data which informs the passage. To that extent, Miller's analysis overwhelmingly takes the day. (Moo does address other views that do not match Miller's, such as that Eve was used as a "type" of female teachers, and these will not concern us here.)

    There are other issues, such as the matter of women's dress in Ephesus, that would support either view, so we will not look at these in-depth, and move to our last item, which comes in pieces:

    Item 3A: The meaning and range of "teach" and "have authority". Miller's last critical point comes of the meaning and purpose of theses central words. (Some also discuss the meaning of "permit," but Miller does not.) Let's start with the second aspect. Miller notes that the meaning of the word for "have authority" is "HOTLY contested" and writes:

    TWO things that ARE sure about its meaning--it is NOT the normal word for "authority" (exousia), "exercising authority" (exousiazo), or "power" (kyrieuo); and it is NOT a 'good' thing (suitable for ANYONE to do--even males!)...so Scholer in WS:WAB:204-205:

    Another factor basic to the interpretation of 2.11-12 concerns Paul's use of the unusual word authentein (translated "to have authority over" RSV) in the second injunction (2:12). This is the only occurrence of this word in Paul's writings and, indeed, in the entire New Testament. The word is not frequently used in ancient Greek literature. The precise meaning of authentein and its use in 2:12 cannot be completely resolved at this time; scholars are currently in an extended debate on the issue.

    Traditionally, authentein has been understood to connote a sense of "domineer" or "to usurp authority" and the term is even associated with murder. Although not all of the evidence and arguments have been fully assessed, two points seem relatively certain. First, the term is unusual. If Paul were referring to the normal exercise of authority, his otherwise constant exousia/exousiazo ("authority/to exercise authority") vocabulary would most likely have been used. The choice of such an unusual term itself indicates that Paul intended a different nuance or meaning. Second,...many uses of the term seem rather clearly to carry the negative sense of "domineer" or "usurp authority." Thus I see the injunctions of 2:11-12 as directed against women involved in false teaching who have abused proper exercise of authority in the church (not denied by Paul elsewhere to women) by usurpation and domination of the male leaders and teachers in the church at Ephesus.

    It is VERY important to point out here that it is PURE FOLLY to base an entire doctrine affecting half the human race (!)--"women should not have authority over men"--on the basis of ONE SINGLE VERSE, and even worse--a single verse where the most important verb is (1) unusual; (2) negative; and (3) not even understood clearly!

    Moo also acknowledges that this word "has generated a great deal of discussion" and issues his own cautions. He does offer one point that would match one of Miller's:

    Third, the objection that, had Paul wanted to say "exercise authority," he would have used the word exousiazo does not bear up under scrutiny. Paul's three other uses of that verb hardly put it in the category of his standard vocabulary, and the vocabulary of the pastoral epistles is well known to be distinct from Paul's vocabulary elsewhere. For these reasons, we think the translation "have authority over" is the best English rendering of this word.

    There is some validity to this point, especially if we acknowledge that Luke was the actual scribe of the Pastorals, as we do. However, Moo's count of three is suspicious; it is true that the verb form is rare in Paul (and Luke) but the noun form is not. It is therefore questionable whether the "standard vocabulary" argument has any weight regardless of whether Paul or Luke held the pen.

    Miller also says:

    The lexical work of Kroeger (WS:WAB:225-244) and Kroeger/Kroeger (WS: ISNW:87-104), although complex, documents one important strand of meaning as being "to proclaim as the originator or source of something" (op.cit.). Liefeld summarizes Kroeger in WS:WAB:246: "If Kroeger's understanding of authenteo is correct, the most straightforward translation of the verse would be, 'I do not permit a women to teach or to declare herself the originator of man.'"

    WS:ISNW:103 states it thus: "If we were to read 1 Timothy 2:12 as 'I do not allow a women to teach nor to proclaim herself author of man,' we can understand the content of the forbidden teaching as being the notion that woman was somehow responsible for the creation of man."

    And elsewhere: "I do not permit woman to teach nor to represent herself as originator of man but she is to be in [peaceful] conformity [ with the Scriptures, as a respectful student]. For Adam was first formed, then Eve..."

    This claim to origination was not just some genealogical quibble--the gnostics claimed that their origination gave them access to a 'purer' stream of revelation, truth, and 'knowledge' than the apostolic circles. This was not a trivial matter--but an issue that would radically affect how the church approached the issue of community truth.

    Moo provides no answer to this in his article - indeed, there is no mention at all of the work of Kroeger, which is strange since it was published 5 years earlier. Our conclusion then: If Kroeger is right, Moo is without any defense. If Kroeger is wrong, the argument from linguistics alone may be judged equivocal, and to that extent, must be informed by some other context - in this case, what we discussed in item 2 above, where we found Miller's analysis more sound. By virtue of this, Miller also takes the debate on point 3A.

    Item 3B: The link of "teach" and "have authority". This is a very technical argument which relates to how these two words connect. Because it is so complex we will divide it into two parts.

    3B1. The scope argument. Miller reports:

    The verb is TOO 'big" to NOT be radically restricted in scope by whatever authentein means.

    The situation is this. "Teach" takes an object in the accusative case and authentein takes an object in the genitive case. "Man" is in the genitive case, and is therefore the object of authentein. That means that 'teach' (unless it is 'connected' tightly to authentein) is UNRESTRICTED in scope. Paul would be prohibiting women from teaching anybody at any time--in direct contradiction to his plentiful commands for believers to teach/instruct/train each other (e.g. Tit 2.4; 1 Cor 14.26; Col 3.16). So the scope of the application must be limited somewhat in the context.

    To this, I find no answer in Moo, which seems rather serious since he does argue that women can teach in some circumstances.

    3B2. The pairings argument. Miller says:

    We have two streams of data that indicate 'qualification' on this verb: (1) the "pairings" in I Timothy and (2) the conjunctions used.

    (1) The "pairings" data concerns the fact that the verb 'teach' is ALWAYS matched with another verb in I Timothy, which qualifies, hones, circumscribes its range. The cases are in 1.3-4; 4.11; 6.2b. This would mean that the 'teach' is somehow narrowed to 'revolutionary' or 'out-of-order' or 'disruptive' or 'destructive' teaching.

    (2) The "conjunction" data concerns the fact that there is a 'but' between verse 11 and 12. So, we have Paul saying something like "Let the women study/learn as proper students...BUT I am not (currently) letting them (the students, having been under the influence of the false teachers--cf. 1.4-7; 5.13; 2 Tim 3.6) teach nor letting them 'overthrow' their teachers (until they are ready--cf. 2 Tim 2.2)". [The fact that 'teach' is present, active, indicative is indecisive as to whether it is a short-term or long-term command--the data is very divided in the extant literature.]

    We also have the conjunction oude ("nor") connecting 'teach' and authentein. This conjunction often connects 'pairs' that mutually qualify one another. In this case, Kroeger (WS:ISNW:84) gives an illustration of how this would look: "I forbid a woman to teach or discuss differential calculus with a man"--the SUBJECT MATTER radically orients the range/scope of the 'teach' word.

    Moo's material, however, does not touch points 1 and 2, only Miller's unnumbered third point on oude:

    While the word in question, oude ("and not," "neither," "nor"), certainly usually joins "two closely related items," it does not usually join together words that restate the same thing or that are mutually interpreting, and sometimes it joins opposites (e.g., Gentile and Jew, slave and free; Galatians 3:28). Although teaching in Paul's sense here is authoritative in and of itself, not all exercising of authority in the church is through teaching, and Paul treats the two tasks as distinct elsewhere in 1 Timothy when discussing the work of elders in the church (3:2, 4-5; 5:17). That teaching and having authority are "closely related" is, of course, true, as it is true that both ministries often are carried out by the same individuals, but here and elsewhere they are nonetheless distinct, and in 1 Timothy 2:12, Paul prohibits women from conducting either activity, whether jointly or in isolation, in relation to men.

    It seems that both sides allow that oude can and does connect things that are mutually interpreting (Moo says it usually does not, not that it never does).

    Beyond this, the point that Paul treats the two tasks as distinctive is of little relevance, especially if the context of the Ephesian heresy (point 2) is admitted into evidence, but even if not, this is no bar to the two being connected in some way associated with a particular act. We conclude that 3B goes to Miller, and likewise, the "debate" we have put together as a whole.

    -JPH