8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control (1 Timothy 2:8-15 ESV).
1 Timothy 2:8-15
(The notes below are a collection of thoughts for my FB Live earlier this week. I’ve written down many thoughts and included a lot of helpful quotations from commentaries. Please comment on my conclusions and applications; I’d love some feedback!)
Lord willing, I’m going to cover several passages over the next weeks and months on gender relationships and roles. The impetus for this is a feeling of personal ignorance on what the Bible teaches on the differences between men and women, especially as I raise my little boy, and my little girl (due in February).
In 2:1, Paul urges Timothy about the importance of prayer (v. 1-7). And that is in the context of Paul’s reminder to Timothy of his command to ensure doctrinal purity in the church (1:3), and his “charge” to Timothy to “wage the good warfare,” clinging to “faith and a good conscience” (1:18).
Then, because of his charge to Timothy (see the “then” in verse 1), Paul teaches Timothy about prayer (v. 1-7). Then, in verses 8-15, we have a two-part division, showing that Paul is giving instructions to men (8a) and to women (9-15).
“Likewise” “shows that vv. 9–10 are still dependent on the “I want” of v. 8 and that Paul was discussing the dress and deportment of women in times of public prayer” (Lea and Griffin, 96).
“Therefore” - “Since Paul had just discussed the subject of prayer, it was proper for him further to discuss the role of men in praying” (Lea and Griffin, 94). “Paul introduces his summary exhortation with “therefore” (οὖν), pointing back again to the preceding argument as the warrant for this charge” (Knight, 127).
The emphasis is on the Action of praying, and the secondary emphasis is on “listing holy hands” (8c).
“Fee points out that Paul’s instruction is not that only men should pray (cf. 1 Cor 11:5), nor that men should pray, nor that they should do it with raised hands, but that they should do it with holiness and without anger or controversy” (Lea and Griffin, 94-95). “Avoidance of ὀργή and διαλογισμός is not intended to represent Paul’s total understanding of the concept “holy” (other aspects are mentioned in the chapters that follow). Paul highlights rather (as did Jesus) the besetting sins of men that most affect their prayer for others by setting barriers between them and God (cf. 1 Pet. 3:7)” (Knight, 130).
“Men are specified here because it is their particular responsibility to lead the church and its worship service (cf. v. 12; 3:2, 5; 4:11–16; 5:17). Paul thus gives specific instructions to men here just as he will give specific instructions to women in the verses that follow (vv. 9ff.)” (Knight, 128).
Application: Is prayer central in your church, men? Are you praying? And are you praying in holiness, without fighting with your fellow believers?
“Likewise” - Now Paul is going to address women. “Just as ἀνήρ means “men” in distinction from women in v. 8 and does not have its more restricted and derived sense of “husbands,” so here similarly γυναῖκας (accusative plural as “subject” of the infinitive κοσμεῖν) refers to women in distinction from men. Just as Paul was asking not only husbands but men in general to pray, so also he is enjoining women in general, not just wives, to dress modestly and discreetly, and to behave in accord with their womanliness in relation to men” (Knight, 133).
“Paul’s instructions to women, like the preceding instructions to men, are related to the context of the gathered Christian community but are not restricted to it” (Knight, 131).
“As elsewhere (5:1, 2; Tit. 2:1–6; Col. 3:18, 19; Eph. 5:21–33), Paul introduces the distinctions between men and women in their particular responsibilities in the midst of a discussion of the church as a worshipping community” (Knight, 132-33).
The emphasis is one the Action in 9a, and the secondary emphasis in 9b, “in respectable apparel.” We could stop here and talk about the importance of outward appearance - clothing! Don’t let anyone tell you that God doesn’t care what you wear.
Of course, men can dress in an ungodly way, just like women can sin by “anger” and “quarrelling” (8d-e); however, Paul is addressing specific sins that are more typical of many men and women, specific to their gender. “Just as Christian men needed to be warned that their interest in vigor and discussion should not produce strife and dissension (v. 8), so Christian women needed to be warned that their interest in beauty and adornment should not produce immodesty and indiscretion” (Knight, 136, emphasis mine).
“The reason for Paul’s prohibition of elaborate hair styles, ornate jewelry, and extremely expensive clothing becomes clear when one reads in the contemporary literature of the inordinate time, expense, and effort that elaborately braided hair and jewels demanded, not just as ostentatious display, but also as the mode of dress of courtesans and harlots” (Knight, 135). “It is the excess and sensuality that the items connote that Paul forbids (cf. Jas. 5:1–6), not braids, gold, pearls, or even costly garments in and of themselves. This is borne out by the fact that the Christian community of the NT is quite willing to use these terms with positive connotations” (ibid., 136).
Application: How do prostitutes dress today? How do women flaunt their beauty in an immodest (see 9c) way? Don’t tell me you don’t know! God forbids this in the assembly of believers (and in all public places, of course).
Rather, your clothing, ladies, should be “good works” (10). Why? Because it “is proper for women who profess godliness” (10). You’re a Christian; you profess that Jesus is your Lord; you should not dress like the world around you in sinfulness, demanding to display your beauty, “expressing yourself,” showing off. God forbids this.
11 reveals a second member of a Series. First, women should dress respectably, wearing good works instead of fancy clothes. Secondly, women should be quietly submissive in church. This is the Idea that 12-15 expands on.
“Paul specified two features about a woman’s attitude in learning. First, she was to learn in “quietness.” The word hēsychia emphasized the attitude or spirit with which the woman was to learn and prohibited her dashing about as a busybody (5:13). Paul was not demanding physical silence but a teachable spirit” (Lea and Griffin, 98). “Second, she was to learn in “full submission.” Paul was not specifying to whom the submission was due, but it at least included the leaders of the congregation, who were responsible for giving instruction in doctrine” (ibid.).
The word “submissiveness” can be used in the NT to describe “the appropriate response of those under authority” (Knight, 139).
“Here submission is, more broadly, the norm for the relationship of women to men in authority functions within the church. The addition of πάσῃ (ἐν πάσῃ ὑποταγῇ) to indicate “the highest degree” expresses in a heightened way the concern Paul has for this norm… Paul is concerned that women’s learning not become an occasion to overturn their role in relation to the authority role that men are to exercise in the church (as apparently in Corinth; cf. 1 Cor. 14:33ff., where Paul expresses the same concern)” (Knight, 139-40).
With the words “quietly” and “quiet” in verses 11-12 “[i]t is more likely that Paul was banning disruptive behavior rather than enforcing complete silence on women in worship settings” (see 1 Cor 11:5) (Lea and Griffin, 100).
“There is evidence in 1 Timothy that some women were neglecting their roles as wives and mothers (1 Tim 5:11–15). Paul may have feared that a combination of personal ambition and the demands of the office of elder/overseer would prevent the women from serving effectively as wives and mothers. He was perhaps taking steps to prevent this situation from developing further. Nothing in Paul’s words need be seen as a suggestion that women were incompetent to serve in the office of elder/overseer. His concern was for marriages in the church and the mothering role” (Lea and Griffin, 99-100).
“That which is not permitted is first of all διδάσκειν, “to teach,” but not as an unqualified prohibition since the object “man” indicates a limitation, as does the immediate context, which has been dealing with religious instruction in the life of the church. To this can be compared Paul’s commendation of women teaching other women (Tit. 2:3–5) and teaching their children and sons (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:14, 15; cf. Acts 16:1); he apparently also approved of the team effort of Priscilla and Aquila in explaining in private conversation (“they took him aside”) to Apollos “the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:25, 26)” (Knight, 140).
“Both there and here Paul’s prohibition of women teaching would prevent them from serving as elders or ministers, but it is unwarranted to limit it to such a restriction from office-bearing. Paul uses functional language (“to teach”) rather than office language (“a bishop”) to express the prohibition. Here he prohibits women from publicly teaching men, and thus teaching the church” (Knight, 141).
“Some have suggested that Paul is only ruling out teaching or exercise of authority apart from a man’s oversight, or just a certain type of authoritative teaching. The insistence here on silence seems to rule out all these solutions. The clause as a whole describes the status of a woman not in relation to every aspect of the gathered assembly (i.e., praying, prophesying, singing, etc.; cf. again 1 Cor. 11:5) but specifically in respect to that with which it is contrasted, i.e., teaching (and the exercise of authority)” (Knight, 142).
“The strength of the prohibition here is underlined by Paul’s appeal to the creation order” (Knight, 140).
“Paul’s favorable comments on women as teachers (2 Tim 1:5; Titus 2:4) seem to rule out the likelihood that his intent was to characterize all women as naive and gullible” (Lea and Griffin, 101).
“V. 14 thus shows by a negative example the importance of heeding the respective roles established by God in the creation of Eve from Adam. This adds to v. 13 (with καί) an example rather than a separate basis for Paul’s argument” (Knight, 144). “Thus Paul argues not from creation and fall but from creation, and then illustrates this argument, albeit negatively, from the fall (cf. God’s judgment on Adam: “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife,” Gn. 3:17)” (ibid.).
“Paul’s point was that men, including those in Ephesus, are more susceptible to mistake and error when they carelessly surrender leadership to the woman” (Lea and Griffin, 101). "It is not because Eve had a greater guilt than Adam that women were subjected to men in the way outlined by Paul, but rather because both male and female were more vulnerable when the female was allowed to take the lead. It is for the protection of both, and not the glory of one over the other, that Paul’s commands are given in the way they are” (G. L. Bray, “The Fall Is a Human Reality,” Evangelical Review of Theology 9 : 338, in ibid., footnote 38). “This creation order is substantiated, or illustrated, by the great tragedy of the fall, when the leadership roles were reversed” (Knight, 131).
“Paul brings the section addressed to women to a conclusion with a note of encouragement (the main verb is σῴζω, “save”) and an emphasis on continued Christian faith and godliness” (Knight, 144).
“To arrive at the proper understanding, it is important to observe that Paul used the Greek word for “saved” in the spiritual sense of obtaining the forgiveness of sins” (Lea and Griffin, 34).
“Paul employed the term “childbirth” as a synecdoche for that part of the woman’s work that describes the whole. Paul’s words are a reminder that a woman’s deepest satisfaction comes from her accomplishments in a Christian home. Paul was teaching that women prove the reality of their salvation when they become model wives and mothers whose good deeds include marriage and raising children (1 Tim 5:11, 14)” (Lea and Griffin, 102). “His comments assume (cf. Gen 3:16) that motherhood is a divinely appointed role” (ibid.).
“Fulfillment of motherhood alone does not assure the woman salvation, for she must continue in faith, love, and holiness combined with good judgment” (Lea and Griffin, 103).
But Knight says that “[t]he most likely understanding of this verse is that it refers to spiritual salvation through the birth of the Messiah” (Knight, 146). This would fit with the flow of transgression to the promise of “the seed of the woman” in Genesis 3:16.
Verse 15 seems to say, “and they will also be saved through childbearing, if they continue…” Eve’s salvation came through the process of birth that culminated in Jesus, and woman today are saved through that same birth of Jesus. I don’t think we have to choose between the interpretations. My conclusion is that the importance of the woman’s role in bearing children is emphasized, but with faith and holiness stressed much more.
“As a concluding word (v. 15) Paul indicates that “salvation” (σωθήσεται) comes to women through that which is unique to them, διὰ τῆς τεκνογονίας, if they manifest an abiding trust evidenced in a life that does not overthrow God’s order (μετὰ σωφροσύνης)” (Knight, 139).
“μετὰ σωφροσύνης, “with self-restraint” (see v. 9), brings into perspective the need for this virtue in addition to the general call for ἁγιασμός. It probably refers not only to restraint and discretion in regard to clothing and adornment, but also, in connection with vv. 11–14, a woman’s role vis-à-vis men and the church. It is thus a reminder that not only sin (vv. 9, 10) but also the creation order necessitates self-restraint and that true faith, love, and sanctity will manifest itself in a lifestyle and attitude that restrains itself from immodesty or ostentatiousness and from violating the order of the Creator-Savior” (Knight, 148-49).
Application: Ladies, do you have an attitude of submissiveness in church, seeking to listen to and learn from God’s Word? How is your faith, love, holiness, and self-control?