The ‘New’ Roman Wife And 1 Timothy 2:9-15: The Search For A Sitz Im Leben -- By: Bruce W. Winter

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 51:2 (NA 2000)
Article: The ‘New’ Roman Wife And 1 Timothy 2:9-15: The Search For A Sitz Im Leben
Author: Bruce W. Winter

The ‘New’ Roman Wife And 1 Timothy 2:9-15:
The Search For A Sitz Im Leben

Bruce W. Winter


A challenging passage for exegetes and theologians alike is 1 Timothy 2:9-15. What has eluded the discussion has been the source of the image of the wife against which the passage is set. In this essay evidence will be presented which shows that the ‘new’ Roman wife was a contemporary perception which influenced this discussion. The evidence for her is threefold, viz., literary works, the poems of leading elegists of the era of the late Republic and early Empire, and the Augustan laws on marriage which aimed to rein in her promiscuous behaviour. This essay does not seek to comment on the passage as a whole but simply to highlight those sections where this background illuminates specific issues.1


1 Timothy 2:9-15 is the most succinct but detailed of all the New Testament discussions on the behaviour of women or wives. In one verse three aspects of a female dress code are proscribed and modest dress is prescribed. In the concluding sentence a mother’s ‘safety’ in what is traditionally perceived to be ‘childbearing’ is made conditional upon her continuing ‘in faith, hope and holiness with modesty’ (vv. 9-10, 15). The literature generated in the past two

decades reflects in part the ongoing search for a Sitz im Leben.2 The purpose of this essay is to provide representative samples of the evidence for what some ancient historians have designated the ‘new’ Roman wife and to see how it helps in understanding certain enigmatic comments in 1 Timothy 2:9-15.3

‘Of the various aspects of patria potestas...that of the notorious right of the father to put his children to death’ is known. It was very rarely exercised in Republican times and not at all in the imperial period.4 There are instances where a wife was subject to the judgement of her husband or his family resulting in capital punishment. In the Republican period, Pullicia, who poisoned her husband, consul Postumius Albinus, and Licinia, who did the same to her spouse were put to death by their late husbands’ kinsmen.You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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