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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Can Women Teach? The Real Question

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; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 
But she will be saved through childbearing--if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. 
(1 Timothy 2:12-15 NIV w/Note)

This is the passage we've been looking at for a week now.  I first started studying it because of the confusion over verse 15 - whether a woman's salvation is tied to childbearing or not.  We've determined it is not.  We've also walked through some basics in context and interpretation and come to this summary so far:

Paul does not allow a woman to teach or have authority over a man.
He instructs Timothy to do the same.
The reason has to do with Eve being created second and sinning first.
Things for Eve will change somehow if women live a holy life.

Here's the real question - the one that creates a problem for Theology and Biblical Studies experts alike:

What changes for Eve?  What about Eve is tied to a woman's behavior today?

Let me try to explain.

Many, if not most, conservative Biblical scholars have concluded that the command of women not teaching men is eternal or permanent.  They come to this conclusion BECAUSE Paul's reason is tied to Eve.  "Eve came second," they will say, "and therefore is subject to the one who came first."  "Eve sinned first," they will continue, "so she needed to be protected spiritually by the man.  Therefore, women are not allowed to teach men."

This reasoning seems to fit well.  It even seems to fit with other Scriptures (which we will get to a little later) and paints a "picture" that makes sense...except for verse 15.  If Paul intends to describe a permanent command, why does he immediately say something will change with Eve.  Verse 15 doesn't fit the picture.

This may seem like a wild-goose chase if you've never looked at this passage of Scripture, but let me assure you it is not.  This verse has caused many, many scholars over the years to scratch their heads.  The idea of Eve being saved, redeemed, restored, etc. simply doesn't make sense in a picture where Eve is being used as a "permanent" example.  Permanent examples don't change.  It doesn't fit the interpretation or theology, so it cannot say what it says.  So...we change it.

Remember when I told you that 1 Timothy 2:15 is translated to say "women" will be saved through childbearing?  This inaccurate translation was done to match the interpretation that the command is permanent.  We find this adjusted translation in many of our popular English texts: NIV (1984, 2011, NIrV & TNIV), NLT, and even my favorite word-for-word Bible - NASB.  Only the King James and HCSB hold true to the Greek: Eve is the one who is being saved.

The word "saved" creates a problem for scholars as well.  How can Eve's salvation (being true to the the text), be tied to other women and their behavior?  This goes against our understanding of salvation throughout the entire Bible!  The only other person any of us can rely on for salvation is Jesus.  Eve relying on all women in all of history would be tantamount to death-sentence.  Not only that - why is she being singled out for this connection and not Adam?  Didn't he eat the forbidden fruit, too?

This one question, "What changes for Eve when they live in faith, love, and holiness with propriety?", was the focus of my studies for many years.  I expanded the context of the passage further, reading and rereading the whole of 1 Timothy.  I studied any passage I could find about women and their role in God's plan - Old and New Testament.  I tried to understand what God's Word said rather than what I had been taught that it said.  Over time in this study, things finally started to make sense.  Again, let me try to explain.

Eve is the mother of all people.  We think of her in a different way as the mother of all women, though, representing them in a special way.  Throughout history, women are looked down upon as second-class citizens because of Eve.  Eve was created second.  Eve sinned first.  She becomes the reason that all women are held to a different role in society and God's Church - justifying our mindset and actions.  Eve is the reason we say that a woman must be subject to a man and cannot teach a man.  It's Eve's fault.

But, Paul writes, Eve will be saved, restored or made whole again (from this blame) if they will continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.  In other words, a women living a holy life will not only reflect the Glory of God but will also shut down the voices of their detractors.  They don't need to fight for the right to lead.  Living a life of faith, love, and holiness WILL lead those around them.  Men won't say things like, "I won't listen to her.  She's a woman."  Instead, they will say something like, "She really knows what she's talking about.  Look at her life."

Think, as an example, of Mother Theresa.  She would be a great example of someone fulfilling what the Apostle Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said in this passage.  You may not agree with her Theology, but you cannot argue with her life.  Her faith, love, and holiness were clearly shown in her lifestyle.  The result?  Men listened to her when she spoke.  People followed her example.  Eve was made whole again through a woman who lived in our current times.  God's Word, once again, is shown to be true.

Now I know that this brings up all kinds of questions for all of us who had been taught that women should have a different role in His Church.  I had many, many questions when this piece clicked into place as well.  My personal process of interpretation and theology didn't stop here, so I won't stop the blog posts here either.  The next several posts will try to help describe how this interpretation fits together quite well in the context of the rest of Paul's letter to Timothy, the rest of the New Testament, and the whole of Scripture.  Then, I will summarize where I am on this passage today and how it affects our local part of His Body.