The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: W

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Women in 1Ti

Paul was addressing a situation specific to Ephesus. We have no idea if it was unique to them or not, although there seems to be certain similarities with problems in Corinth:

  1. The primary reason for writing is revealed in 1Ti 1:3; 3:15. This reflects Paul's prior warning in Acts 20:17-35 (esp v 30). The whole of the letter is dominated by Paul's concern over people who were teaching false doctrine.
  2. This false teaching was being presented as gnosis (1Ti 6:20) and had an exclusivist and esoteric appeal. It included an asceticism (1Ti 4:3; 5:23).
  3. The consequences of this false teaching were quarreling and strife and controversy (1Ti 6:3-5).
  4. The false teachers had found a receptive audience in some of the "house churches" and especially in certain women who were going from house-church to house-church spreading this false teaching (1Ti 5:13; cp 2Ti 3:6-7 and 1Co 16:19). Apparently the young widows were a fruitful field for these false teachers.
  5. Timothy's task, given him by Paul, was to (a) correct the false teaching; (b) deal with the related behavioral issues; (c) teach sound / healthy doctrine as the antidote; (d) reform the organization of the Ephesian church by replacing the false teachers with new elders.
The thrust of the letter, therefore, is corrective. Paul does not need to spell out the truth because he is writing to a lifelong companion who does not need such instruction. However, he does authorize him to take corrective measures.

Consequently, the reforms which Paul instructed Timothy to implement were specifically related to this problem, including:

Paul appeals to Scripture (1Ti 2:13-14) first by noting that Adam was formed first, then Eve. He does not elaborate on this, although he makes a similar observation in 1Co 11:8-9 without any suggestion of subordination. The Gen narrative implies no superiority based on the order of creation, except that the creation of man and woman was the climax of creation. Here in Genesis it is the LAST created (ie, man/woman) which are at the pinnacle (insofar as they are in God's image). There is no suggestion that Eve was in any way inferior because she was created after Adam.

Paul's second observation from Gen was that Eve was deceived by the serpent. Elsewhere (Rom 5:12,19) he says that it was through the man Adam that sin came into the world. Paul is no more suggesting that all women are easily deceived than he is that all men are led into sin by women. The point of his argument here is not to establish a universal "principle", but to use an illustration relevant to the situation in Ephesus. In fact, in light of later Gnostic writings, it is almost certain that part of this false teaching which Paul is addressing was the heresy that Eve was created first (hence the reference to the creation order in Gen), and that she was the originator of all wisdom (hence the reminder that Eve was deceived and a sinner).

Paul's instruction to the Ephesian women, via Timothy, was that they should marry, have children, and devote themselves to good deeds. This is what he means by being "saved through childbearing".
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