Out of the Frying Pan
and into the Fire!

by mjongsma on May 8, 2012

The overwhelming sentiment I heard about the Journey reading was that most of you were thrilled to get out of the book of Ezekiel and were happy to getting to something easier in the book of I Timothy. Well be careful what you wish for because you have left one dark and depressing text for a book that contains one of the most controversial and confusing in all of scripture:

Women should learn quietly and submissively. I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly. For God made Adam first, and afterward he made Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived by Satan. The woman was deceived, and sin was the result. But women will be saved through childbearing, assuming they continue to live in faith, love, holiness, and modesty (2:11-15).

Looking ahead, I’ve been reading and studying about this passage in an effort to give you a simple, definitive response of explanation of this text. Are you ready? Here it is.

I don’t have one!

After sifting through articles, commentaries, blogs etc., I’ve concluded that any effort I would make to try and present an argument one way or another would do little more than confuse (not to mention, giving me a headache :-( ). The challenge here is seeking to determine, as one commentator stated, the context of the passage in its cultural background”. In other words, what issue was Paul seeking to address and how would the original reader hear what he was saying? This is critical because, while his words may not resonate well in our modern ears, they may very well make perfect sense to those whom Paul was originally speaking.

In his book, The Walk, Michael Card talks about his friend, Bill, who had spent years studying the life and work of the Apostle Paul. He writes:

Bill dubbed his unique category for approaching the letters of Paul as “task theology.” His theory was that in order to understand Paul, you must take seriously the fact that he was first and foremost a missionary, and he shaped his theology to suit his particular missionary task. It is vital to understand that Paul was always addressing a particular life situation on the mission field. The failure to understand this accounts from so much misunderstanding and dissension in the area of Pauline studies (p. 132).

What was the issue that Paul was addressing? That is not clear. However, I do believe there to be merit in this perspective that would lead one to conclude that Paul’s limitations here were prescriptive (dealing with an issue) and not permanent (a complete prohibition against female teaching). I say that based on other instances in his letters where he refers positively to women in ministry: Phoebe (Rom. 16:1-2; Priscilla (Rom. 16:3-5); Euodia and Syntyche (Philippians  4:2-3).

As I’ve already stated, there is much that can be said about this topic, but I am not going to try and say it. I want to wrap up with a quote from a source who is much more learned than I, Dr. Walter Liefield (whom I happen to have met when I was a student and he a professor at Trinity Seminary). He concludes his commentary on this passage with these words:

However this issue may be settled, the ideals of this passage, beginning with prayer and including peaceful holiness on the part of men and modesty on the part of women, should be pursued by Christians today. Also men should not justify abuse or harsh domination of women, as they sometimes have done. Women should not neglect their pursuit of the gracious qualities taught in verses 9-15, as they also sometimes have done.  And no church should split over these issues. To incite dissension is to sink to the level of false teachers whom the pastoral Letters so strongly condemn. “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).

Amen!

Pastor Jason

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