This article continues the examination of 1 Timothy 2 which begins here. This Bible passage is troubling and controversial for Raleigh area Christians because when read out of context through the lens of modern culture, it seems to subvert the rights of women. What does this passage really mean?
“A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” (1 Timothy 2:11-12, NASB)
It should be noted that the Greek word translated “women” in 1 Timothy 2 specifically refers to “wives”. The context of this passage is a wife learning from her husband within the boundaries of a wife’s role as defined in various other Bible passages. (Source)
The Greek word for “submissiveness” as used here is hupotage which suggests “placing in proper order“. (Source) While the husband and wife are completely equal in God’s sight (Galatians 3:28), the woman should honor and nurture her husband’s God given role as family leader. A woman should suppress her desire to lord over her husband. This desire came as a result of the curse in Genesis 3:16.
28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
Biblical husband/wife roles are a source of great debate and will be addressed in more detail in subsequent articles. As a brief introduction, let it be noted that God assigned different roles to the husband and the wife as a way of protecting and strengthening the marriage covenant. A nation functions better when each branch of government performs its assigned role instead of trying to also assume responsibilities that belong to the other branches of government. Similarly, a marriage works best when each partner focuses on his or her assigned roles instead of both trying to assume leadership at the same time.
Consider a football team as another example. Each team member is assigned a specific position. While the quarterback may receive a lot of limelight, he knows that his role is no more important than any of the others. The wide receiver may be the smallest player on the team, but he is the one who will often catch the quarterback’s pass for a touchdown. Were it not for the offensive linemen, the quarterback would never get to throw the ball. Were it not for the running backs, the ball would not make its way down the field. Every player is equally valuable to the team. When one player chooses on his own accord to step out of his role and assume a different role, the team will likely lose the game.
A wife must let her husband lead. This passage does not suggest that married women must remain mute without permission to speak or teach. A wife must respect her husband’s role as leader, but she is still entrusted with great spiritual wisdom which must be shared with others and passed along to future generations. She is also given a number of spiritual gifts which should be used to edify the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12). A woman can teach her children and other women and even share insights with her husband, but she should not be characterized as usurping her husband’s role. God can use a woman mightly for the kingdom when she respects these marital boundaries.
The last few verses in 1 Timothy 2 also cause unrest because at first glance, they seem to place all the blame on the woman for the fall of man. In context, however, the verses point out what could happen when the marital roles are not properly respected. Eve took the forbidden fruit first and then gave it to Adam. As Eve’s spiritual leader, Adam should have stopped her or at least refused to follow her lead. As his wife, she should have let him lead. Stepping outside of one’s God given roles can lead to disaster.
Part 2 of this series will examine Ephesians 5:22-23:
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.
“Does the Bible permit married women to speak or teach at church?” (Biblestudy.org)
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