I Timothy 2 Part 3
New King James Version 11. Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.
The Resultant Version 11. Let a woman be learning in quietness in all subjection.
Paul now moves from the topic of women praying to the related topic of women learning. Yet again the word for “woman” here, gune, can mean a “wife” rather than simply a woman. His command to her is to learn in silence or quietness. This relates to an attitude of decorum, a proper attitude for learning. She is to learn with all submission, arranging herself under her teacher in order to learn.
We would point out several things that relate to this. Women at the time Paul was writing were likely to be much less educated than their husbands. If either person in a marriage could read, it was very likely to be the man. Thus he was likely to know more than his wife. Therefore, for a wife who knew less and was less educated than her husband to refuse to learn from him or to attempt to teach him instead would be, in effect, one who knew less trying to teach one who knew more. This is something that those who have tried to teach others have no doubt found true. We who have labored over these truths and spent long hours in the Scriptures considering all that God has said will come upon those who have done none of this, and yet who loudly proclaim their own opinions and criticize our work and conclusions. Those who ought to be learning, then, are those who refuse to listen. Often the less a person knows of the Bible, the more he seems to think he knows. Paul therefore is urging these women not to be like this.
This book was also written to Ephesus, where there was a large cult of the goddess Diana. Women factored largely in this cult, and so some of these women who might have been saved out of this false religion would be used to women being in the know or having more knowledge of things religious than men. Such women needed to learn that the things they thought they knew were not valuable regarding the new life in Christ. They needed to learn that they knew nothing of the true God and His ways, and so develop a good attitude for learning in quietness and submission. This is what Paul urges these women to do. Indeed, such an attitude is good for all who learn from another, men or women, to adopt.
We must also remember that Timothy was working among the Ephesians, a group to whom Paul had ministered many years before in the Acts period. During Acts, many miraculous gifts were given to the believers, and this included the women, as we can see from such things as the example of Philip’s daughters who prophesied in Acts 21:9, or of Junia the apostle in Romans 16:7. It could be that some of these women had been given the gift of teaching. This certainly seems possible. Paul in Titus instructs that the female elders teach the younger women, and it could be Acts period women were given this gift for that very reason. Now, though, it could be that they were thinking this gift they were formerly given qualified them to teach even their husbands, and this thought was causing them to attempt to throw off their husbands’ authority altogether. Paul clearly does not want this, and warns against it here.
New King James Version 12. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.
The Resultant Version 12. But I do not permit a woman either to teach over a man, or to usurp authority over a man, but to be in quietness.
Paul now expresses his own policy regarding this matter: that he does not permit a woman to teach or to usurp authority over a man, but to be in quietness. Again, this could have to do with men and women, or it could particularly have to do with wives and husbands. Paul’s statement that this was his policy does not give his words any less weight, for Paul is speaking of things he had done by God’s inspiration, as His chosen leader, and he was now advising Timothy to do the same. It would be wise for all of us to take his advice and the example of his conduct seriously.
It is common to many in our day to think of the Bible in general and Paul in particular as being anti-women or being oppressive against women. Yet this is not at all the way it was looked at back when the New Testament was being written. The fact is that in their society, the men who were the patriarchs chose the religion of the family and dictated all things religious to the family. The idea propagated by Christ and His followers, that women have the same ability to believe in Christ or not believe in Him as the men do, was considered quite liberating at the time. In fact, it is said that women flocked to Christ in part because He gave women equal choice in believing. Moreover, as Paul himself teaches in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither…male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The idea that the privileges in Christ were open to all, both male and female, on an equal basis, was a radical idea at the time, and respected the personhood and dignity of women more than nearly anywhere else in Jewish or Greek society at the time. The idea that Paul and the Bible were oppressive to women would not have occurred to anyone at the time, but rather quite the opposite.
This said, we should not overstate the Bible’s teaching regarding this. It is always a danger to take God’s rebalancing of things and move it too far in the other direction. Galatians 3:28 does not teach that there is no longer any difference between men and women at all. If that is what it is teaching, then why not wear men’s or women’s clothes indiscriminately, or flip a coin regarding which restroom to use? No, obviously this is not what is meant. Moreover, the Bible still gives specific commands to the various sexes, such as the commands to wives and husbands in Ephesians and Colossians, or even as here, and so there are still specific commands to follow and roles to fill for each of the sexes. It is only regarding the privileges “in Christ” that these gender differences do not matter. In many other things gender still exists, and is a significant thing.
What exactly is Paul saying here? Does this mean women should not be allowed to teach men regarding the things of God? One might take it this way, and many have. I would point out that we should not lose sight of the comments I made above: that women at the time were not as educated as men, and were much less likely to be able to read than men. In this situation, it makes sense that the women were not qualified to teach. I must admit that I personally have listened to messages given by women or attended Bibles classes led by women, and this has not bothered me if I thought the woman was qualified and had something to say. I am not willing to set a dogmatic policy on this, yet I do not think the Bible’s comments on this should be entirely ignored. God has generally put the men, particularly the husbands, in a position of leadership over the family when it comes to the things of God. Perhaps this is Paul’s concern as much as anything. The independence brought to women by the fact that they could choose to believe or not believe regardless of what their husbands did should not make them think that they should wrest authority away from their husbands over the family. God’s will, as He expresses it in Ephesians and Colossians, is still that wives respect and submit to their husbands.
Finally, he tells the women or wives to be in quietness when it comes to learning. This does not mean she has to be silent and not ask questions or make any comments, but rather speaks to a proper attitude towards learning. She is to be ready to learn, not to think she knows it all already, or to be loud and argumentative. It is important to know when and how to take on the proper attitude of a student, and these women needed to learn this.
New King James Version 13. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.
The Resultant Version 13. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.
Paul is now going to justify his statements regarding men and women, or at least husbands and wives, by going back to the example of the very first man and woman, the very first husband and wife, Adam and Eve. He points out that Adam was formed first, then Eve afterwards. Why this is important or relevant becomes obvious only after we consider the next verse.
New King James Version 14. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.
The Resultant Version 14. And Adam was not beguiled, however the woman having been wholly beguiled has come to be in transgression.
Here the part about being formed first becomes relevant. According to the record of Genesis, God’s command to Adam in Genesis 2:16-17 not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil came prior to the creation of Eve in Genesis 2:21-22. Therefore, since we have no record of God repeating this command to Eve after creating her, the implication seems to be that He depended on Adam to pass on this command to her and to teach her. Since she did not follow the command, but broke it and led her husband to do the same, it is clear that she did not learn her lesson at all well. Of course, the question arises as to whether Adam was a poor teacher or whether Eve was a poor student. The implication of what Paul is saying here seems to be that the latter was true. Eve learned God’s command from Adam, but she failed to be a good learner and absorb what God said. Adam the teacher was not deceived by Satan’s lies, yet Eve the student was. Therefore she fell into transgression. If she had listened to Adam and learned her lesson well, she would not have done this.
The implication Paul is making for the women of Ephesus is obvious. They are just as much in danger of falling into Satan’s traps as Eve was. This is especially true since they are ignorant of God’s actual commands and teachings. They need to be good students and learn their lessons well, unlike Eve their first mother.
Does God in saying this also imply in this a justification for God having placed men in the position of being the leaders and teachers in the first place? Some would argue vehemently against this, claiming that what one woman did thousands of years ago could hardly affect what all women should be doing now all these years later. Yet is it not also true that the choice these same two people made, the choice to go Satan’s way rather than God’s way, affects every last one of us, and subjected all their descendants to the law of sin and death? How then can we argue that this one woman’s decision could not affect all women? Certainly this seems very possible!
The implications of these statements are very interesting. Genesis never really tells us what Adam was thinking when he took the fruit from his wife and ate it. The statement there is very simple, telling us much of the motivation of Eve, and nothing really of the motivation of Adam, as we see in Genesis 3:6.
6. So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.
Though Genesis gives us no idea of Adam’s motivation, yet God through Paul thousands of years later gives us more information about this when He informs us that Adam was not deceived as Eve was. That means he must have realized that Satan was lying, that he was eating poison fruit, and that it would kill both him and Eve. Why then, we might wonder, did he eat it anyway, and why did he not attempt to stop Eve from eating it? As far as stopping Eve, I suppose Adam had never conceived of doing anything to kill himself before, and that Eve would do something to kill herself he had never considered. He had never had to stop anyone from doing anything harmful before, and he was probably caught flat-footed when he saw Eve do this. The thought of stopping her probably never entered his mind until it was too late, and then all he could do was decide what to do next.
Why, then, once he realized Eve had just killed herself by eating poison fruit, would Adam’s response have been to eat it and kill himself as well? The obvious answer seems to be that, since he realized Eve was going to die, he decided he would rather die with her than live without her. His sin was, perhaps, made all the worse by this, for Eve at least had the excuse that she was actually deceived, whereas Adam acted willfully in rebellion against God. Nevertheless at least Adam knew the truth, though he did not submit to it. Eve did not even realize the truth, and so had no real chance of following it. In this case, it makes sense that Adam would be put in charge of their family. At least, not being deceived, he would have a chance to lead them in the right direction. Eve, being deceived, would not even have a chance to lead the right way at all!
Of course, this is not to say that every man or every husband is less deceived than every woman. This is certainly not the case! This is only pointing out the way it was in the beginning, and why things came out the way they did. It might be in certain situations today that a woman might know more or be less deceived than a man, or even than her husband. For her to listen to his teaching or to submit to it then would not be so good, as she must first be loyal to God. Yet it is still good for her to not attempt to usurp authority over her husband, and to respect and submit to him as much as she is able. I have certainly seen Godly, thinking men discouraged from the truth by the emotional and unbiblical statements of their wives. This is not good. We all, men or women, must strive to believe and teach all that God has said. This must ever be our aim and desire.
New King James Version 15. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.
The Resultant Version 15. Yet she shall be saved through the childbearing, if they shall be remaining in faith and love and separateness with sanity.
There is no doubt but that we come upon a most difficult verse here. It is hard to say exactly what this is talking about, and we can bring forth no definite teaching regarding it. Yet we will look at what it says and consider things that may cast light upon it, though in some part we might leave the matter still in darkness.
First of all is this matter of her being saved in childbearing. This has given no end of fits to those who assume that being “saved” must refer to salvation from sin and death, as they then have to come up with some way that women can be saved from these things through bearing children. We know that this is not how women or anyone else is saved from these things, but rather we are saved upon believing the record God gave of His Son. This has led some to suggest that the “childbearing” referred to is actually Mary bearing the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet even if this were so, and there is no remotest reason in the context for us to think this, can we really say that women or anyone else is saved because Mary bore Jesus Christ? Are we not saved rather because of the work Christ did on the cross on our behalf, because of His death, burial, and resurrection? These are the things that save us. Mary bearing Christ, while important to the whole plan, was not enough to save anyone.
It is true, as The Resultant Version has it here, that the Greek reads “the childbearing.” In context, if this “she” is referring to any particular woman, however, we would expect it to be Eve who is being referred to, not Mary. This leads us unto interesting ground, for there is a very significant story from Genesis regarding Eve and her childbearing. First of all, we need to note Adam’s actions after God had pronounced His judgment upon them, as we see it in Genesis 3:20.
20. And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.
To understand this, we need to realize that her name had not been “Eve” before this time. When she was first brought to Adam, he called her “Woman,” because she was taken out of a man. We see this in Genesis 2:23.
23. And Adam said:
“This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”
“Woman” was her name, not a description of her. Since we typically do not translate Old Testament names, it might be better if we left this as the Hebrew word “Isha.” Isha, meaning “Woman,” was her name until the fall.
Next, we need to remember what Paul told us in verse 14, that Adam was not deceived like Isha was. God had told Adam in Genesis 2:16-17, ““Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”” Isha had not believed this, and so had eaten the fruit. Yet Adam had not been deceived, and so he ate the fruit knowing that it would kill both him and Isha. Yet then, in God’s judgment against them, He had made this statement of Isha in Genesis 3:16:
“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
In pain you shall bring forth children;
Your desire shall be for your husband,
And he shall rule over you.”
Adam heard this, and heard for the first time that Isha was not going to die, at least, not so quickly that she would be unable to have children. God graciously stayed their sentence until it would be finally carried out at a future date. Now Adam had an opportunity for faith. He knew that they had eaten forbidden fruit, fruit that was poisoned. He knew that because of this they were dying, and should eventually die. Yet now, he believed God that Isha would live long enough to bring forth children. Therefore, he gave her the new name “Eve,” which means “Lifespring.” This name reflected his faith that Eve actually would live long enough to bring forth children and give life to the world of Adamkind. This was Adam’s faith, and God immediately responded to it, as we see in Genesis 3:21.
21. Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.
Immediately after Adam believed Him, the LORD God made them tunics of skin to cloth them. He must have done this by sacrificing an animal, establishing immediately one of the great truths of atonement: that blood must be shed to take away sins, and that the blood of animals was effective to cover human sin, though never to take it away completely.
Now after Adam showed this faith and it pleased God, it would appear that Eve may have tried to get in on the act. Genesis 4:1 tells us:
1. Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the LORD.”
Eve seems here to be responding to the words of God to Satan in Genesis 3:15.
15. And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”
God told Satan that the woman was going to have a Seed who would defeat him and bring victory to Adam’s race. It seems that Eve, seeing her first child and witnessing for the first time in history the miracle of human birth, decided that this first child of hers must be the promised Seed, the one who would free them from Satan’s clutches and give them victory over him. Therefore, she called him “Cain,” which means “Acquired” or “Possession.” She was basically saying, “I have him! I have the promised Seed!”
Imagine, then, her consternation when her “promised Seed” was followed up by a second child. Suddenly, the fact that seemed so obvious to her at first, that this was the promised Seed, appeared now a natural thing, and not significant at all. She had had a child just like animals have children, and there was nothing unusual about it. It was not miraculous birth, and Cain was not the Seed who would save them from Satan. At that point, she seems to have moved from faith to despair, as she named her next son Abel, which means “A Breath.” This is similar to if we would say, “What I thought was true was just so much vapor.” In other words, she saw her hopes for Cain were false, and so gave up on God’s promises, deciding they were just vapor and emptiness! Alas, but Eve was acting like a very young woman, as in reality she was. It is too bad that she did not have more faith. Yet perhaps her original spirit of wanting to have faith like her husband did count for something. If so, this could be what Paul means by the fact that she shall be saved through the childbearing.
Yet it is also possible that Paul is not referring to Eve in general, but to the women he was writing about. How could childbearing possibly save them? The very idea is a source of confusion to many. Yet we also need to keep in mind that the word “saved” is not used in the Bible, any more than it is in our everyday language, exclusively for salvation from sin and death. When you “save” your money in the bank, you are not saving your money from sin and death, or from anything really, unless it is from you and your own spending habits. To “save” not only can mean “to deliver,” but it can also mean “to preserve” or “to make safe.” The same is true in the Bible. When God saves, He can deliver or He can preserve. Moreover, He can deliver from other things than just our ultimate salvation from sin and death. It would seem likely that the “salvation” spoken of here is not from sin and death, but from women refusing to learn in quietness, from them attempting to teach when they know less than their teacher, and from them trying to usurp authority over their husbands. If so, we might wonder how women would be saved from an unteachable attitude or an attempt to usurp their husband’s authority by bearing children? This question is not an easy one to answer.
Certainly it is true that having children can teach someone who has been selfish to act in a more selfless way and to live for someone else. Maturity can sometimes come through motherhood. It could be it would teach a young woman some humility, and affect not just her relationship to the child, but also to her husband. Yet this is certainly not a universal rule, as some mothers are not cured of selfishness by having children, and indeed care little about their own offspring. We cannot really say for certain what is meant by this statement, and will continue to seek for further light on the issue.
Yet whatever the case, it is clear that Paul is not saying that bearing children is a cure-all for bad attitudes and behavior. He emphasizes that this will only be effective if they remain in faith and love and holiness with sanity. Faith is belief, which of course is necessary in anything to please God. Love is the Greek agape, which is God’s type of self-sacrificing love. This kind of love certainly will help in any woman’s relationship either with her husband or her children. Holiness has to do with being set apart, and all Godly women need to be set apart from the typical people of the world around them. Finally, they need to continue in these things with sanity. This is the same word used in verse 9, and again emphasizes that she needs to act sensibly and reasonably in what she does. Perhaps God saw that some of the women in Ephesus were not acting reasonably, and so He emphasizes the need for this to them. Certainly, good sense needs to be applied in all we do, along with faith, love, and holiness.