Editors Note: Rose Bowrie continues her discussion of what the Bible says about women with a passage from 1 Timothy.
This article is going to focus on what Paul says specifically about women in 1 Timothy 2:9-15. But first, we should review what has been said in the previous articles on this subject. First, in Genesis, we talked about how God created women, and what they were designed to do. We were created to be a help. In the next article, we looked at what the law had to say about women specifically, and that the whole law was written for both men and women equally. In the last article, we looked at a specific passage, and what happened to the women in it, and why God did not condone the behavior of the people who had done all the things to the women in that passage. We basically talked about how sin will help us justify any action that we care to do, and that in our own eyes, it will look like it is a good action, but how destructive it can be without God.
This particular passage usually gets picked out of the whole of the New Testament for people to say that God hates women, and how He does not want them to speak, or how He wants them thrown into a box, and how God thinks women are worthless because of what it says. I think we should read it for ourselves and then discuss it.
1 Timothy 2:9-15
“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. Let the woman learn in silence withal subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Northwishstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”
This passage is actually talking about how women should behave in a worship or church service. A woman should be dressed modestly. At the time that this was being written, women wore some rather risqué clothing. If you walked down a street, you were very likely to meet a woman wearing hardly anything, who could possibly be a priestess for one of the many “goddesses” and who basically was a prostitute. At this time in history, if you were a woman and you wanted to be respectable, you wore a lot more clothing, and you never left the house without some kind of male escort, so that everyone would know that you were respectable. But, in the sense that Paul is talking about a woman wearing modest clothing, here he is speaking about a woman dressing in a way that would distract her fellow brothers and sisters in Christ from worshiping. You are not supposed to dress in a way that takes everyone’s attention away from the worship service. To do so is to do them all a disservice. But it is not only in her dress that a woman is supposed to be modest. The phrase, “ with shamefacedness and sobriety” also has to do with her attitude. A woman is to come to church prepared to worship, she is to come in humility, and to remember that she is there to worship God, not to catch eyes, and not to make others jealous because of her clothes or jewelry or what-have-you. A godly woman is also to have a righteous behavior about her.
The next line is interesting, in that Paul says to let a woman learn. This is actually something that is different from the times at the time when Paul was writing this. Women were considered less than men at this time in history so to tell others to let women learn was quite progressive in this time. Paul, in agreement with the Old Testament law, which a woman would have to know so that she could follow it as well, says to teach women the things of God. Now he also says in silence. Most people think this means that she cannot speak at all while in church, or ever, and that is not what this passage is saying. This means that while the worship service is going on, a woman should not interrupt, and should not teach, which is covered by Paul in verse 12. Women were not meant to be in authority over men, and so, should not be pastors. I know several people who do not agree with me on this, but women were not meant to lead in this way. Now that is not to say that a woman cannot lead a Sunday school class of children, or do things around the church, but she should not be a teacher over men. She should learn, and learn well, and ask questions after the service, either of her husband, or father, or brother, or in a kind and godly way, an elder of the church. But a woman is not to be permitted to teach. And in a way, this is something that I’m rather grateful for personally. Men have more responsibility that women do when they are pastors. They are even judged much more by God than a woman would be because they are responsible for the people under their care, and God will ask them how well they did in the end, when He does judge. As a woman, I am thankful that I do not have to have that responsibility. My responsibilities are fewer in comparison.
The last three verses, 13,14 and 15, all point back to Genesis. Paul points out that Adam was created first, and then Eve, and that is how God designed the relationship to be. Adam was to be the leader, and Eve was to be his helper. Sort of like Adam was a colonel, and Eve was the aide. Also, a lot of people take verse 14 to mean that God placed the whole of original sin on Eve, but that was not so. Both Adam and Eve sinned, and they did sin together. Here, Paul is pointing out that Eve was deceived, however, he also points out, that if women raise godly children, there is a hope of being rid of the stigma of being the instrument of leading the whole of humanity into sin and death. And that is something to behold.
In conclusion, women were created in the image of God, and they were created equal with men, but with different roles. Women were not created to lead, but to be a help. They were given the Law of Moses at the same time as men, and they were to learn it so that they would know what to do and what not to do, and so that they could teach the law to their children as well. Women are a functioning part of the church, but they are not to be a distraction in the worship service, and they are to be clothed modestly and to behave in a good manner.