For many of the Christians that believe women are not to be ordained, authoritatively teach in churches, nor hold formal church leadership offices, 1 Timothy 2:8-14 is the first (and oftentimes the only) Bible text they throw out as a conversation-ending, slam dunk against people they feel are “re-writing” the Bible for their own ends.
When last we left our on-going series on women in the church, we talked about the text and translation of this passage. We talked about its history of mistranslation and how the seemingly best and most consistent translation offers us a different picture than the traditional one. Today, we’re going to pull back from the text itself to look at the culture and context behind the letter.
I’ll give my view up front, so you can leave it, take it, or read on for why I land there. This post is a long one.
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In this series on women in the church I haven’t taken the usual approach of jumping right to Bible verses. I feel there are far deeper things that affect how we interpret before we even opened the Bible. I thought we should talk about that.
This has also been a really hard post to write. For much of my readership (especially those whose minds I am most interested in changing–male church leaders who disagree with me), I don’t know what I can say that’s different than what they’ve heard before. I don’t like feeling like I’m contributing to the noise.
So here’s what we’re going to do. I’m just going to try and deconstruct the more conservative view of these verses (this post), and then offer a reconstruction of how I view the verses now (the next post). If people need me to cite sources and such, then I can do that in the comments. I won’t bog down this post with that stuff, because the people that care are generally the people that both know where to find the information and/or already know it and have incorporated it into their view. So here we go.
Here’s the text in question. This is the single most “problematic” text for those that see a valid place for women in the ordained leadership offices of the Church. The text is 1 Timothy 2:8-14 (ESV):
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