I made this reply on Facebook. To avoid it getting lost on Facebook, I’m listing it here for reference:
Here’s the entire text of 1 Tim 2 in the KJV as a quick reference for those who would be interested in reading it. You can click on this link and look at other translations too: http://
We’ve also discussed this in more detail in our Unmuted article: http://www.soulation.org/
As for 1 Timothy, I believe ALL scripture inspired by God and is given in cultural context, this is true for Abraham, David, Solomon, the Prophets, Jesus, and Paul and many others. And that to mine our what is being said in a passage, we must not only know the grammar, but also the original audience who heard it. That better guarantees we get closest to authorial intention and can draw the important point being made. Just reciting a word from greek or hebrew is not enough if we lack the cultural context of why the word may have been said.
It would be good to note that the verse after these, starting in chapter 3 verse 1, that Paul says “anyone” seek to be an elder. So if 1 Tim 2 means women cannot teach at all, then this contradicts Paul in the next chapter. It also contradicts someone like Junia the apostle, who had authority and proclaimed the gospel (see mini-book on that here: http://www.amazon.com/
What is the cultural context behind 1 Tim? Ephesus… what was Ephesus about? It housed one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World: the temple of Artemis. It would be like living next to the White House. And to say Artemis had no influence on their culture is like saying that living near the White House and the politics of DC has no effect on your culture.
What did Artemis teach? That women were spiritually superior to men. They adorned themselves in erotic temple garb. The priests to Artemis were women. Women had the spiritual upper hand. What else do we know about Artemis? She dwelt in inapproachable light. She was born a twin… she came out first and then she helped her mother birth her twin brother, Apollo. Artemis was the goddess of childbirth. We know all this and more from ancient inscriptions and literature.
These are just a few details going on behind the scenes. Timothy had his hands full. God-fearing Gentiles were converting to the Jewish Messiah yet lived in a thoroughly pagan society and carried with them pagan ideas and teachings. As we’ve seen with all of Paul’s letters, he’s nearly always writing to offer correctives, to warn of pagan ideas coming into the theology of the new believers in Jesus.
So what is the corrective happening in 1 Tim 2? Whatever it is, it must be consistent with the whole passage and be consistent with the whole book. Epistles do not function like proverbs in that we can just take a few verses at a time and treat them like they fell out of heaven as absolutes without qualification read from a 21st century armchair.
Who is the god who dwells in unapproachable light? Artemis? Ephesians may think so, but Paul shows that God is greater than Artemis and uses this very phrase in 1 Tim 6:16! God dwells in unapproachable light!
And who is the God of childbirth? Artemis? Yet women will be saved in childbirth, not by Artemis, but by the God of Israel and the Messiah you follow! That’s why women will be saved in childbirth at the end of 1 Tim 2, quelling the superstitious fears of these new followers. By the way, most traditional discussions on 1 Tim 2: 15 end up with rather unsatisfying explanations, usually they tossing verse 15 out as unimportant (or worse, some have thought women cannot be “saved” unless they have children!!). However, this verse highly important and can be rightly understood, if we know the context and should fit the rest of the passage and the chapter. Thankfully, archeology has become an important study in the last 100 years so we can gain more insight into the ancient world in which our bibles were written.
What about all this adorning that Paul tells the women to avoid in 1 Tim 2? Artemis worship, priestess practice? Yes.
What about woman teaching in spiritually superior positions to men? Yes, that’s a problem too. Women should be learning this new theology in all quietness and subjection. They should be subject to the gospel, not Artemis.
Should they teach to usurp authority authority over a man? Heaven’s no! That’s what Artemis followers do, not Jesus followers. In fact, this word for “authority” shows up only once in all the Scripture and is difficult to translate. Most scholars agree it means to “usurp authority” (which the KJV uses) and could even mean to “murder” someone. It is not good for women to usurp authority over a man! This must have been happening. And, by the way, it isn’t good for men to usurp authority over men either. We’ve seen plenty of passages on this throughout scripture, about being servants to one another and loving one another.
So then we come to the “creation argument” that man was created first and the woman was deceived. This was a corrective to the Artemis narrative that woman was born first and then man. The Artemis narrative may not have been to give women “authority,” but it did offer them a superior position and special spiritual awareness. Paul emphasizes that the woman was “deceived.” That is an apt corrective here! Women can be deceived! We know men can be deceived too, as Scripture attests. But in this instance, Paul needed to show these young believers that in the Christian narrative women were deceived too from the start and have no right to boast for their superiority or high spiritual insight.
Where does that leave us? It leaves us not, on my view, with Paul saying that man was the leader of women. He makes no mention of that in the passage. Read it again. He is showing that coming first doesn’t give you a special spiritual position (else the animals, which were created before humans, would have a superior position to humans). Paul is leveling the playing field and teaching a theology of humility where ALL have special access to God through Jesus, this God who is the only one who dwells in unapproachable light.
This makes sense of 1 Tim 3:1 where “anyone” can be an elder, and likely why he says in Ephesians (same audience) that after they are to submit one to another (5:21) that he then addresses the women with the same word. It’s like saying to a class, “listen up!” And adding, “That means you, Bobby!” We know why Bobby was pointed out but listening did not exclude everyone else. Listening to men and husbands was hard for women in that culture, apparently.
I find that when we historical backdrop is revealed, then the scripture not only makes more sense but becomes much more interesting and alive… and the princples of scripture remain consistent. It isn’t just an abstract thing that fell out of heaven but was written in different times and places among real people wrestling with real things.
As for the creation argument in general, when we look at Creation itself we do not see authority of men over women. The first mention comes in Gen 3, at the curse, where God says to Eve, “he will rule over you.” The curse is not creation. It is judgment. And it’s a judgment Jesus came to redeem us from. On my view from the text, the first marriage was about partnership, not about rulership of man over woman. And, I believe, that is the healthiest way to live in God now as we work together with our respective gifts to cultivate the world and show people the Messiah.