This post was initially a personal communication with someone, as I answered a concern about 1 Timothy 2:11-15. The post will not be exhaustive (so do not expect that) but it will hone in on a certain point.
Is Paul referring to some timeless principle in verses 13-14? Because Adam was created first, and Eve was first deceived, is this a foundational principle for all time about the roles and limitations of women? Was Paul referring to primogeniture/patriarchy to back up verses 11-12 that women can’t have authority?
Paul is writing a letter to the church in Ephesus and clearly some local concerns and problems are being addressed. (Of course, that does not mean there are NO truths for us today.) After Paul makes statements in verses 11-12, he goes backwards in verses 13-14 – reviewing history – summarizing Genesis 3. While verses 13-14 make some clear statements, it is not so clear why. Why does Paul bring up Genesis 3?
Verse 13 says Adam was formed first then Eve. Okay. But the Bible never teaches primogeniture as a model for living. It is definitely the cultural backdrop of Bible times, but not God’s intent. If God and the Scripture teaches primogeniture, God fails to follow his own principle! Primogeniture is regularly subverted and overturned in Scripture. God chose Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and David – none were first born. Jesus is the “last” Adam and Jesus exercises authority. The Gospels emphasize that the first will be last, and the last will be first, in God’s kingdom. So…
Paul could not have meant by “Adam was formed first, then Eve” that women by nature of being second can’t have authority because that does not line up. (Remember that Paul knew the Scripture very well.)
Then we have verse 14. Yes, Eve fell into deception. This seems to apply directly to the situation with the women in Ephesus. They were being deceived, like Eve. Eve was a good example to bring up to those in Ephesus. But does it then follow that…
This means all women for all time are more easily deceived than men (and thus cannot have authority)? That, to me, is a very strange way to interpret this because again, it does not line up with the rest of Scripture.
I am not familiar with Scripture that teaches all women, by nature of being female, have an “extra special” proclivity to be deceived. The Bible teaches that all humanity, women and men, have a sinful bent to be deceived by sin and Satan. False teaching can lure us all. Jeremiah 17:9 says the heart is deceitful, and this is not addressed only to women! Romans portrays all of humanity, women and men alike, as suffering from the same sin problem – women are not called out with a special warning just for them.
Jacob is actually known as the big “deceiver” of Scripture – he both deceived others, and got deceived himself by other people. So should all men since the time of Jacob be thought of as being more easily deceived (than women) because Jacob got tricked? Likewise, should all women, since Eve, be known as being more easily deceived (than men) because Eve got tricked? Neither is fair.
Also, there are very wise women in Scripture that had MORE sense than men. Abigail always comes to my mind. She was wise, and diverted disaster with King David, by circumventing her foolish husband Nabal. Think of certain women in the Gospels, like Mary and Martha of Bethany, who understood truths about Jesus and His purpose BEFORE the men did, and Christ honored them. The male disciples were still believing false ideas about why Jesus was on earth.
Women such as Priscilla, Phoebe, Junia, Euodia and Syntyche were among Paul’s trusted colleagues in ministry. Clearly Paul trusted women in his missionary work and building churches. In case you have never noticed, Paul refers to women – positively – in his letters. If Paul believed some principle that “all women are more easily deceived” then he would have been hesitant to proclaim women as his trusted co-workers. Sometimes Paul called out women when there was a problem, indicative that he viewed them just as his male colleagues – whom he also praised and critiqued at times. Both men and women can get things right and wrong!
Also, consider that Priscilla was in Ephesus. I don’t think Paul was directing First Timothy 2:11-15 to her, as Priscilla was already known as a gifted teacher in the early church. There is a difference with her – Priscilla had been taught and was competent to teach others. She even taught the prestigious man Apollos – that is impressive.
When all of Scripture is considered, we see examples of:
wise men and easily deceived men,
wise women and easily deceived women.
Neither sex has the monopoly on being deceived.
Even if (note if) there was actually some biblical belief that women are more easily deceived (but as said, it seems clear there is not) but even if this was true – would not this have been redeemed by Christ?
All Christians have a new identity in Christ! We have an upward call to follow Jesus and use our hearts and minds to serve him. Even if there was a belief that women are more easily deceived, that can no longer be how we are seen. We are redeemed daughters of God through Christ! While I remain a sinful person, I am not tarnished for life as sinful or as someone supposedly extra capable of being deceived – just because I am female! I am “in Christ” and a child of God. My sin or a tendency to deception does not define me. Christ does!
Jesus encouraged women to fully utilize their mental faculties. Jesus sent women out to speak gospel truths. Women today should too!
And why is Eve so often only remembered by folks for how she was deceived? Eve also brought us the Savior! See Genesis 3:15! Eve’s offspring would one day crush Satan. And Mary who gave birth to Jesus, proclaimed profound truths in her Magnificat. In fact in Luke, Mary was the first one to proclaim certain truths about what God was going to do in the world.
So what was Paul getting at in these verses? Well, it is actually not my point in this post to answer that question! Rather I’ll close with this:
When there is an interpretation about a passage of Scripture, and the interpretation conflicts with much of the rest of Scripture, it seems there is an interpretive mistake!
There are passages of Scripture that are easy to understand, and other passages that are hard to understand and interpret. However, an “easy” place to begin may be to rule out certain interpretive options because the options conflict with other known, certain beliefs in the Scripture.
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