Leading Him Up The Garden Path: Further Thoughts On 1 Timothy 2:11-15. -- By: Rebecca Merrill Groothuis

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 16:2 (Spring 2002)
Article: Leading Him Up The Garden Path: Further Thoughts On 1 Timothy 2:11-15.
Author: Rebecca Merrill Groothuis


Leading Him Up The Garden Path: Further Thoughts On 1 Timothy 2:11-15.

Rebecca Merrill Groothuis

Rebecca Merrill Groothuis is a freelance writer and editor and the author of Good News for Women: A Biblical Picture of Gender Equality (Baker) and Women Caught in the Conflict: The Culture War Between Traditionalism and Feminism (Wipf & Stock).

11Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. 12I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. 13For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

1 Timothy 2:11-15 (NRSV)

Ever since I set forth a more-or-less representative egalitarian interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in Good News for Women, I have felt somewhat dissatisfied with this approach. Although I found it considerably less problematic than the traditionalist interpretation, still it left me with some nagging questions. For instance, if women at Ephesus were not to teach or to have authority in the church because they were deceived or unschooled, why were they specifically prohibited only from teaching or having authority over men? And if Paul were addressing women and men in general, why did he speak in terms of “a woman” and “a man”?

It has seemed to me that the peculiar wording of the prohibition holds important clues to Paul’s original intent in writing these words to Timothy at Ephesus. I have also suspected that the reference to Adam and Eve is not merely illustrative, but integral to the meaning and purpose of the prohibition. Both the standard egalitarian and traditionalist interpretations fall short of resolving these questions and concerns.

Problematic Interpretations

Egalitarian interpretations of this text typically argue that Paul was provisionally barring women from teaching and leadership ministries because he did not want them to teach false doctrine or to exercise or usurp authority inappropriately or abusively (e.g., in a dominating or controlling manner). Presumably, women at this church at this time were not theologically equipped to teach accurately or lead appropriately in the church’s ministries. This interpretation is plausible, but it seems to fall short of being persuasive.

Surely not all the women, or only the women, were deceived or unfit to teach or lead. Why, then, should this text restrict the ministry of all women—and of only women? Furthermore, i...

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