I received the following question.

I don’t get a woman learning in silence in 1 Tim. 2:11, “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.”  Is it not arguing while learning of God?  It’s not like don’t question or discuss though, right?

First of all, notice that the context is Adam and Eve, who were husband and wife. The words gune for woman and aner for man can also mean “wife” and “husband,” and I think they do here. The woman was not to teach the husband, but to learn from him in silence. A few facts to consider:

1. Timothy was working in Ephesus, among mostly Jewish believers. In their culture, women were generally illiterate, and therefore could not read a word of Scripture. Moreover, the men were brought up to learn the Word. For women to attempt to teach their husbands, then, would be for one with little knowledge of the Bible to teach one with more. There are often cases today when those who know very little about the Bible will confidently try to teach those of us who have diligently studied it out. These people could take a clue from this and learn to shut up. Part of being ready to learn from the Lord is realizing how little you do know.

2. Timothy himself was the son of a Greek man, and therefore was not circumcised as he should have been, or taught by his father. It was his mother and grandmother who passed on their faith to him, two women! (II Timothy 1:5)

Overall, it is rather mysterious. Wrapped up in this may have been the very dignifying fact that the Word of God elevated women by declaring that there was no difference between male and female in Christ. Women could be in Christ through believing just like men. However, some women may have been carrying this too far, and throwing off the authority of their husbands. If this carried over into them not listening to their husbands’ teaching regarding Scripture, even though they probably knew a lot less of it than their husbands did, it was not a good thing.

Paul also brings in the fact that Eve was deceived when Adam wasn’t. I don’t think we want to make a rule of this, for there are certainly men who are deceived when their wives are not. However, Paul’s argument seems to run more along the order of things established by God and why they were established that way, not that every woman is gullible whereas every man is discerning. Yet his warning seems to be against ignoring the order as established by God, that wives should submit to their husbands. The fact that all are one in Christ does not change this.

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