1 TIMOTHY 2 – FALSE DOCTRINES
At face value, 1 Timothy 2:11-12 appears to silence women in worship –
“Let the woman learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit the woman to teach or to usurp authority over the man; but to be in quietness.”
As with Paul’s Corinthians passage, it is necessary to understand the context.
“Stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to MYTHS and endless genealogies.”
1 Tim 1:3.
Paul told Timothy to stop some of the people from teaching – the ones spreading wrong doctrine by following myths. In chapter 2 he says who those “certain people” are – his message is directed at a woman or perhaps a group of women.
He didn’t allow a woman (with wrong doctrine – who is still following the myths and genealogies) to teach nor to “usurp authority” (act of herself – independently of the men) but to learn quietly. The reason – her teachings are wrong – For Adam WAS formed first.
We know that there were ideas circulating in the Gnostic writings that Eve woke Adam from sleep and existed first. These ideas were clearly circulating in Paul’s day – it is obvious from him comments. Even though the oldest Nag Hammadi texts (which include the same teaching) date to the 2nd or 3rd century, they did not suddenly arise in a vacuum. The Jews were trying to combine Bible creation stories with Greek myths way back – centuries before Christ. The writings of Philo the Jewish philosopher at the time of Christ reflect Jewish Gnosticism.
Paul is not saying “all women must be silent because Adam was made first”. He is responding to the wrong teaching of the woman and silencing her. The fact is that Adam WAS made first, Eve WAS in the transgression, and faithful women will be saved whether they have children or not – a reference to the wrong teachings.
Paul silenced anyone teaching wrongly, including men –
TITUS 1:11 – PAUL SILENCES MEN
“For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.” Titus 1:10-14
The Greek word here for “stopping” the mouths occurs only once in the New Testament – it means “to bridle or stop up the mouth” ie. muzzle. It was reserved for this group –‘The Circumcision Party’- the group of Judaizing teachers, who maintained the necessity of circumcision – men were certainly included in this group. Paul again refers to this group in Phil 3:2 and calls them “dogs”.
“ Look out for the dogs, look out for the evil-workers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.”
It’s appropriate that Paul says to stop up their mouths or muzzle them in Titus. The word Paul uses here to silence men with wrong doctrine is much harsher than the word for ‘learn in quietness’ which he applies to the woman or women with wrong doctrine in Ephesus.
Let’s look at the fuller context of 1 Tim 2. and discern the wrong teachings of the woman who needed to be silenced until she learnt the right teachings –
WRONG TEACHINGS BY A WOMAN IN EPHESUS
|Eve was formed first and woke Adam from sleep||For Adam was formed first, and then Eve.|
|Adam alone brought sin into the world||Woman who was deceived and fell into transgression (Adam was not alone in the sin)|
|Women could be in authority over men||I do not permit the woman (in error) to teach or exercise authority over a man; she is to remain in quietness.|
|Having children is evil, it creates more vile flesh – Women who give birth will be hindered from entering Gnostic heaven||Women, however, will be saved through childbearing, if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.|
Paul warned of those who claimed to have true knowledge but had a false knowledge – “Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge (gnosis)” 1Tim.6:20.
Let’s look at the background of Ephesus and its history that elevated women.
Ephesus was the home of the temple of Artemis. According to Greek mythology, she was one of the virgin goddesses who remained independent and free of any man. She was the Goddess of pregnant women and childbirth, Goddess of all animals and Goddess of the hunt.
Legend also has it that the city of Ephesus was founded by the Amazon Women who built the first temple to Artemis – a nation of all female warriors who originated from Northern Turkey. They were skilled warriors who rode horses, enslaved men and forced them to build the city. By the time of Paul, the worship of Artemis had merged into the worship of Diana of the Ephesians.
DIANA OF THE EPHESIANS
We know from Acts 18 that Diana was worshipped all over the Roman Empire – this is confirmed by ancient coins which call her “Saviour”. From Acts 19:27 we have the quote: “The goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world.”
She had many titles, one of them was “Protector of Women in Childbirth”. The Roman Diana had evolved from the Greek One. The idea of powerful independent women was reinforced in the Artemis cult because unlike other Greek goddesses, Artemis had no need of a male partner. Images of the Amazon women also lined her temple in Ephesus.
Ephesus was a breeding ground for myths and philosophers.
There still stands a statue in the ancient library from AD 117 where Wisdom or Sophia was personified as a woman.
MYTH – EVE WAS FIRST
Sophia was one of the figures of the Gnostic stories. Her daughter was Eve. It’s hard to date the origin of the Gnostic stories, but we can deduce that they were present in Ephesus at the time of Pauls’ writings from his comments in 1st Timothy. One of the Gnostic texts says that Eve woke Adam from sleep –
From “On the Origin of the World”
Sophia sent Zoe, her daughter, who is called “Eve,” as an instructor in order that she might raise up Adam, in whom there is no spiritual soul so that those whom he could beget might also become vessels of light. When Eve saw her companion, who was so much like her, in his cast down condition she pitied him, and she exclaimed: “Adam, live! Rise up upon the earth!” Immediately her words produced a result for when Adam rose up, right away he opened his eyes. When he saw her, he said: “You will be called ‘mother of the living’, because you are the one who gave me life.”
This passage promotes the Myth that Eve was made first. Some Gnostics tried to combine their teachings with those of Christianity; they adopted the creation stories but changed the meanings. The ‘wrong teachings’ Paul describes were the same as the wrong teachings found in Gnosticism. He also refers to the “false knowledge” – the Greek word for knowledge being ‘gnosis’.
1 Tim. 6:20-21 “The profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge (gnosis) – by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith.”
All of Paul’s references to the wrong teaching of the woman can be connected to Gnostic style beliefs. This makes sense of the strange reference to women saved throughout child bearing.
Comparing 1 Timothy with Gnostic texts we can make a list of wrong teachings
– Eve was formed first
– The woman was not part of the transgression
– Adam alone brought sin into the world
– Women did not have to submit to men but could be in authority over them
– Creating more vile flesh by having children is evil
– Women who give birth will be hindered from entering Gnostic heaven.
SILENCING WOMEN? – 1 Tim 2:11-15
“Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. And she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”
At face value Paul appears to be silencing women (or a particular woman) because Adam was made first and wasn’t deceived like Eve was. He appears to be giving Adam an elevated status and endorsing a male hierarchy. Let’s see how these ideas compare to the teachings of Jesus. Would Paul contradict Jesus?
WHAT DID JESUS SAY?
“Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant.” Matt. 23:8-9
Matt.23:11“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.” Mark 10:43.
“Whoever does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:35.
ORDER DOESN’T MATTER
“But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Matt. 19:30.
BUT PAUL APPEARS TO SAY THERE IS A MALE HIERARCHY
“I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” 1 Tim. 2:12.
DOES ORDER REALLY MATTER?
“She must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” 1 Tim 2:13.
At face value – the words of Jesus and the words of Paul don’t seem to agree. Would Paul say order matters in one place when he said it doesn’t in another?
1 Cor. 11:11-12 “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. And everything comes from God.”
‘Women are to be silent for man was formed first.’
So once again – at face value – Paul’s words are very puzzling.
“And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” 1 Tim 2:14
This passage makes two points.
- Adam was not deceived.
- The woman was in the transgression because she was deceived.
The point of this passage is not to say that women are more easily deceived than men, but to show that Eve was also in the transgression and not Adam alone.
IT IS ALSO WRITTEN
“For as in Adam all die” 1 Cor. 15:22
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin” Rom. 5:12
In 1 Timothy Paul is emphasising that women were drawn into the transgression by being deceived, that is the point here – to correct wrong doctrine which was causing some women to be deceived. It seems likely that some women were saying that Eve was not part of Adam’s sin.
Let’s compare the traditional interpretation of the Timothy passage with an alternative one.
Traditional interpretation – Women are to be silent because Adam was made first – A universal rule from Paul to apply to all women for all time.
Alternative interpretation – Deceived women teaching wrong doctrines are to stop teaching and learn in quietness – Advice for a local situation to women who still needed to learn and were leading others astray. Other women like Priscilla were ready to teach and they did.
PAULS PURPOSE OF WRITING TO TIMOTHY
1 Tim 1:3 says “Stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies.”
NOTE: Paul’s command was only for ‘certain people’ – the ones teaching wrong doctrine.
From the context of 1 Tim. 2 the wrong doctrines appear to be:
– Doubts about Jesus being human
– Angry men
– Women overdressing
– EVE MADE FIRST and not part of Adam’s transgression,
– Having children hindered salvation.
1 Tim. 2:5-15
“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, … 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, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.”
This passage appears to be Paul’s correction to a list of wrong doctrines.
Below is a comparison of Paul’s comments from 1 Tim. 2 with false teachings.
Paul’s Comments False Doctrines, Myths
|V 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.||False teaching that Jesus was not a man: “Every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.” 1 John 4:3|
|V 8 Men everywhere to pray… without anger or disputing…likewise(when they pray) women to dress modestly, not with elaborate hairstyles…or expensive clothes (brackets mine).||Some men giving prayers were involved in disputes – they shouldn’t be. Some women who gave prayers were dressing inappropriately. Both to pray in right manner.|
|V 11-15 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; and the woman being deceived was in the transgression. And women will be saved through childbearing.||Women who taught wrongly needed to learn in quietness instead of trying to assume authority. She/they had been deceived by the wrong doctrines – that Eve was made first – that Eve was not part of Adam’s sin – Gnostic teaching that childbearing hindered salvation -that it was better not to marry- “They forbid people to marry” 1 Tim 4:3 – worshipping Diana to save in childbearing.|
Paul didn’t just silence women, he silenced anyone with wrong doctrine. That’s the real point here. It’s not a matter of gender – it’s a matter of stopping those who teach wrongly whether they are male or female.
Click here for youtube of Context of Writings Silencing Women