Thursday, April 10, 2014

Let women be silent - 1st Timothy 2:11-15

"A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint." (1 Timothy 2:11-15)
This is a difficult passage to deal with and one that is often presents a "Lose, Lose" propositions for any who teach it for no matter what you say, someone is going to be angry with you. However, being the fool I am, I'm going to give it a go. It is also a scripture that cannot be treated in my typical "write only what they can read in ten minutes" approach so this discussion may span multiple posts.

It is important to note that many of our present day churches bear little resemblance to the churches of the early centuries as pertains to their structure and practices. In many assemblies, opportunity was given to any who wish to participate in the meetings. Paul writes of the church at Corinth,
"What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted." (1 Corinthians 14:26-31)
It seems clear that Paul allowed for each member to share the things God had given them. Paul had just previously stated the benefits and reasons for allowing the free-flow of the Holy Spirit in their gatherings and the common participation of all their members, "But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you." (1 Corinthians 14:24-25) However, in permitting the full participation in their meetings, Paul reminds them that, "God is not a God of confusion but of peace" (1 Corinthians 14:32) therefore "all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner." (1 Corinthians 14:40) Paul's goal in instructing women to be silent in church was to promote decency, order, and decorum. You may disagree with his definition of decorum, but this goal was at the heart of what he commanded.

Some early churches also had times where the Bishop or one of the elders of the church would teach the scriptures and the apostolic message that had been handed down to them. Justin Martyr described church in this way,
"And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen" (Justin Martyr, First Apology, Chapter 67)
I believe that when Paul wrote that women should not teach in church, it was this form of teaching, where the elder or Bishop would teach the scriptures and apostolic message in a way that was authoritative and binding. It was a form of teaching that shaped the faith and doctrine of believers and defined what it meant to be a Christian. It was a teaching that bore the authority of the Apostles since those who taught ti carried the apostolic succession on their shoulders.

Finally, it must be remembered that Paul was establishing the apostolic traditions that were to be followed in the churches he was establishing. Each church was unique and even the apostolic traditions handed down to them differed based on the apostle who founded the church. Paul here says "I do not allow" rather than "Christ does not allow." However, this does not diminish the fact that he believed these injunctions to be "the Lord's commandment." (1 Corinthians 14:38)

Next time we will look at Paul's reason for these injunctions.

David Robison

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