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1 Timothy 2:11-15 – The Silencing of Women

Summary

The author exhorts women to learn in silence, refrain from teaching, and not assume authority over men.

Analysis

These verses are the strongest statement in the New Testament concerning the role of women in the church, prohibiting them from teaching and having positions of authority. We can assume that women had begun to assume such roles within a community known to the author of 1 Timothy, and he reacted negatively against them. There is evidence in the Pastoral Epistles that certain women had begun teaching a version of Christian faith that was considered false and a threat to the faith known to the author. It is interesting, however, that those who are named to be heretical in the Pastorals are men (1 Timothy 1:20). In any case, the author calls upon women to be modest and silent in the church.

A similar passage appears in 1 Corinthians 14:34–35. That passage, however, is probably a post-Pauline interpolation into the text of 1 Corinthians, for it contradicts Paul’s statement elsewhere in the same letter where he routinely accepts that woman pray and prophesy in the Christian assembly (1 Corinthians 11:5). Furthermore, since the verses in question are not always present at that place in ancient manuscripts of 1 Corinthians, for sometimes appear after 14:40, it is generally concluded that they were a scribal addition in the margin of ancient manuscripts, which was taken up and placed at differing locations in later texts.

One sees in all this a backlash against the freedom that women had in Christ within the original, authentic Pauline tradition. But the two passages cited here have been used up to modern times to prevent women from having teaching and leadership roles in the church. When such matters are discussed, it is necessary to realize that there is tension within the biblical canon between the authentic Pauline message and statements that come from after Paul’s time. Then one asks what is fitting for the proclamation of the gospel and the ordering of the church in one’s own time and place.

1 Timothy 2:11-15

11Let a woman* learn in silence with full submission. 12I permit no woman* to teach or to have authority over a man;* she is to keep silent. 13For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

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10 February 2011

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