How Does Paul Interpret Eve In 1 Timothy 2? -- By: Craig S. Keener

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 11:3 (Summer 1997)
Article: How Does Paul Interpret Eve In 1 Timothy 2?
Author: Craig S. Keener


How Does Paul Interpret Eve In 1 Timothy 2?

Craig S. Keener

Dr. Craig Keener is a biblical scholar and frequent contributor to Priscilla Papers. His books are available from the CBE Book Service.

Evangelical interpreters, egalitarians and complementarians alike, have slain many trees over Paul’s precise point in citing Eve in 1 Timothy 2:13-15. Is Eve a transcultural example, or merely an example applicable to the easily-deceived Ephesian women and those like them?

The question deserves continued attention in 1 Timothy 2, but at this point we must take the question one step farther back. Before we can ask how Paul uses Scripture in 1 Timothy 2, we must ask how he uses Scripture in general. If he always uses it in a straightforward manner, then presumably 1 Timothy 2 must silence all women. If, by contrast, Paul often argues by analogy and sometimes uses Scripture in an ad hoc manner, there is no reason to doubt mat Paul may be doing so in 1 Timothy 2—which would undercut perhaps the main pillar for applying this text to women transculturally.

How Paul Reads The Old Testament

Often, perhaps even usually, Paul reads the Old Testament in a straightforward manner, as we usually do. For example, he applies commands given to Israel to all believers who have accepted Israel’s Bible (e.g., Rom 13:9); principles from Israelite law (e.g., Deut 19:15) can help guide the church (2 Cor 13:1). But what happens when we must address an issue which no specific biblical text addresses? We normally look for texts that address similar principles and draw analogies between those texts and the situation we must address; Paul did the same thing.

Paul also often universalizes biblical texts by analogy. Because his contemporaries, both Jewish and Gentile, customarily drew on born positive and negative models in history to make their points, Paul’s audience would have followed his approach easily enough. Many of his examples are easy for us to follow too. Thus Abraham becomes a model for believers in Romans 4 (though Paul’s contemporaries applied the analogy on ethnic lines, to Israel). His contemporaries would have found his connection between Adam and humanity in general (Rom 5:12-21) more like their own (compare e.g., the rabbis, 2 Baruch, 4 Ezra).1

Some Pauline analogies are slightly more difficult, thoug...

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