You Are All One, Chap. 13, The Teachings, Part Eight
Paul writes to Timothy and instructs him on handling various issues.
The last three of Paul's letters— 1 Timothy, Titus, and 2 Timothy— are the few that are addressed to individuals in a congregational setting, but even so these people are not resident leaders or authorities. Timothy and Titus were Paul's co-workers, fellow missionaries and travellers, and trusted companions. And neither of them is addressed as pastor, elder, or any other such title. So when these letters are referred to as the "pastoral epistles", it misleads people into thinking they are manuals for a CEO position in an organization.
Paul begins his first letter to Timothy by urging him to stay in Ephesus long enough to stop false teachers. The content of those teachings seems to be related to either Jewish myth or Gnosticism, or both. They have become a major distraction at the very least, but have progressed to the point where some have raised themselves up as teachers in the assembly. Yet these people are unqualified and ignorant of true doctrine, in spite of their self-confidence and aggressiveness. So stopping falsehood is the theme and purpose of the letter, and thus a critical component of the context.
From vs. 8-11 we can tell that this falsehood is related to law. The choice of words seems to indicate not Jewish law specifically, but law in general. But then Paul makes another important statement: that he had been shown mercy because he had sinned in ignorance when he was still in unbelief, and that what God had done for him was a pattern or example for future believers. God has mercy on people who do not sin with their eyes opened, but not for those who know what they are doing. An example of the latter was the case with the Pharisees, whose guilt Jesus assigned because of their claim to "see".1 We should recall that the man Paul mentioned in his letters to the Corinthians was never named, meaning it was not necessary for other believers to be on their guard against him, because he was not a false teacher. We will encounter this principle again shortly.
So Timothy is being charged, per vs. 18, with putting an end to this nonsense, in keeping with an unspecified prophecy about him. Note that in vs. 19 two men are named, and Paul says he has already "handed them over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme". As with the man in 1 Corinthians, handing over to Satan is not indicative of lack of saving faith, and who but a believer needs to be taught a lesson about blasphemy? This is an internal matter, so these must be believers. But unlike the unnamed man, these are false teachers, which we know from what Paul is telling Timothy. The context of 1 Cor. was immorality, while the topic here is false teaching. So we see from Paul's examples that while there can be various reasons to expel someone from fellowship, only deliberate false teachers are named so that other believers know who not to trust.
Then in ch. two Paul says "therefore", referring back to what he has written about falsehood and those who promote it. He is now giving preventative measures, ways in which the people can protect themselves from future false teachers. But as we have already learned, if Paul specifies a weakness a group needs to work on, it is not a blanket endorsement for people not in that group to freely indulge in it. For example, if one child out of a class is misbehaving, the whole class does not need a lecture, but only the child who is misbehaving. And of course this in no way means the rest of the class is free to misbehave! Yet when it comes to scripture, many interpreters do believe that if only certain people are restrained in a matter, that other people are not so restrained.
This is no more evident than in 1 Tim. 2. Paul tells men to pray without contention, but that hardly means women are allowed to pray with contention. Likewise, when he tells women to be modest and moral, it hardly means that men have no requirement to be modest and moral. But it is significant that Paul assigns to Christian women at least one quality which, in that culture, was thought to be the sole domain of men: wisdom. While some teachers today would turn a Christian woman into a mere empty shell whose only purpose in life is to serve a man, Paul urges her to be wise. And again, it is not only Christian women who need to be moral and pure and wise. These are universal Christian virtues, not his and her virtues.
Now in vs. 11-15 we arrive at the counterpart to the controversy found in Eph. 5. Remember that to this point the topic has been remedies for false teaching, and while Paul will address several subtopics as he goes along, we cannot ignore the purpose of the letter as if some parts were written in a vacuum. This section is clearly a unit, being between instructions to various groups before it and a discussion of requirements for being a guardian after it. But it is in the context of stopping falsehood, not truth. That hardly seems necessary to point out, until we encounter some of the desparate interpretations of this passage.
First of all, Paul suddenly switches from plural (women) to singular (a/the woman). But as we have observed in his other letters, he does not randomly shift between the two, and he is known to use impersonal nouns when he does not wish to name someone. But many translations hide this fact and change the meaning of the passage by altering the grammatical number and even some pronouns. Here is the literal rendering:
woman in quietness let-her-be-learning in all subjection to-be-teaching yet to-woman not I-am-permitting not-yet to-be-domineering of-man but to-be in quietness
Woman is singular, as we said. Quietness is the word hesuchia, and while some claim it means complete silence, most agree that it means in a quiet and respectful manner. All students were to have this attitude, and this same word is found in 1 Peter 3:4 which makes the second meaning obvious.2 Then Paul commands the woman to learn, a radical idea for the time. The word for subjection is hupotage, meaning the respect a student is to have for their teacher. There is no identification of the person to be subjected to or respectful of, although many presume that it must mean all women to all men. But no such thing is warranted by this passage. So this first sentence, vs. 11, reads, "The woman must learn, and in a respectful and humble way." So the woman in question is not named, and she is commanded to sit quietly to learn. This tells us that she is teaching falsehood, and doing so out of ignorance.
Now Paul begins vs. 12 with "But", so he is about to put a restriction on her. In other words, she has been given permission to do one thing (learn), but now she will have permission denied on another thing. But this sentence is in the form of an idiom, which means a method of expression that is more than the sum of its grammatical components. The form "yet… not… not yet…" (de… ouk… oude…) means "not this, nor yet that". In English we might say to a child who has violated a rule, "You aren't even allowed to go to the end of the street, much less to the concert tonight!"
Now we understand vs. 12 to read, "I am not even giving her permission to teach, much less to oppressively control the man! She must quite down." Here we have another unnamed person, a man, and this woman is oppressively controlling him. The Greek word there is authentein, a rare word in classical literature of the time and used only in this spot in the entire NT. Its literal meaning has to do with murder or violent overtaking, with some translations choosing to render it as domineer. What it certainly does not mean is any and all authority; we have already seen the more common Greek words for that. And Paul uses one of them, epitrepo, in this very sentence when he says "I am not permitting". So what she is being denied is permission to teach, especially not to oppressively control.
Again, this does not mean that men are allowed to oppressively control other men! No believer is allowed to do this, but not all of them are doing so in Ephesis at this time. Like the one child who needs the reprimand for misbehaving, the one woman teaching falsehood and oppressively controlling a man is the one being reprimanded. It is the worst kind of scripture twisting to turn these two sentences into a universal and timeless rule prohibiting all godly Christian women for all time from teaching truth!
But the objection will come in spite of all that, "In the next sentence Paul appeals to Genesis, so this is a universal and timeless prohibition." Ah, but we know Genesis better than that, and we know Paul well enough to state that he would not make up a new law or interpretation into the OT. What is the topic here? False teaching. What kind of person does Paul not name? The deceived or ignorant. What does the passage in Genesis to which he refers talk about? Deception. He writes,
adam for first was-molded thereafter eve and adam not was-seduced the yet woman being-completely-seduced in transgression has-become
Note several important things here. Paul is talking about creation order, which we know from our study of Genesis has nothing whatsoever about authority; it is simply a sequence or chronology. But then he follows that immediately with "and Adam was not deceived." So Paul ties creation order to deception, not to hierarchy; he agrees with our assessment of the Genesis account. But what, we may ask, does creation order have to do with deception? Adam knew from personal experience that God had the power to create, while Eve, the last one created, did not. She was inexperienced and therefore vulnerable to the idea that she really could be like God. Adam had no such vulnerability, not by his being male, but by his first-hand observation of what God could do. This makes perfect sense out of what Paul is saying here.
Now turn your attention to the fact that Paul, right in the middle of a thought, turns from naming Adam (twice) and Eve (once), to using the impersonal noun (the woman). Does he mean, as some assert, all women? No, Paul's use of grammar in all his other writings does not allow it. And we must consider also the fact that the word for "has become" is in a form that means a past action with continuing results. In other words, whoever "the woman" is, she is still in sin! Some try to twist this to mean that Eve's sin has its continuing results in the present, but that would lead us to the absurd conclusion that either Eve is still sinning, or only women suffer for her sin. But what does scripture say about the sins of Adam and Eve? At whose feet does Paul lay all the blame for the entrance of sin into the world? Adam. Nothing is ever said, anywhere in scripture, about anyone suffering the effects of the sin of Eve. And we have already dealt with the fact that God did not curse her, much less only her daughters.
We should note also that in 2 Cor. 11:3, Paul feared that all the Corinthian believers, not just the women, had been deceived by the serpent's cunning just as Eve had been. If deception were the sole domain of women, Paul just contradicted himself. And who would claim that only women can be deceived, or that only men can guard them from it? Our experiences alone would be enough to refute the idea that women are intrinsically deceivable in a way that men intrinsically are not. As with Adam and Eve, deception is a matter of experience, not biology.
Now we come to vs. 15, and there we see another word used rarely in classical literature of the time and only this one spot in the entire NT: teknogonias, literally "the parenting of children". The whole verse reads as follows:
she-shall-be-being-saved yet through the parenting-of-children if-ever they-should-be-remaining in faith and love and holiness with sanity
What does "saved" mean here? Some say that the Greek word always refers to salvation from eternal wrath, but that would only be true if we knew from every instance Paul uses it that the context is clearly on that topic. Here, not only is such a thing not clear, but it would constitute a salvation by works— and works of the strangest nature! But since the topic is deception and ignorance, we can safely assume that it is those things the woman will be rescued from. And as for "the parenting of children", some say it refers to The Childbearing, that is, the birth of Jesus. But if the salvation mentioned here is not from eternal wrath then this meaning for teknogonias does not match. In addition, there is not one other instance in the NT where salvation from eternal wrath is described in terms of Jesus' birth; it is always in conjunction with His death and resurrection.
So this woman, deceived and in sin, will be rescued from both through some kind of parenting or patient instruction, and as the remainder of the verse tells us, it has to do with "they" remaining in faith etc. Note the shift within one sentence between "she" and "they"; does this, as some assert, make "she" mean all women? No, the grammar does not allow it. For example: If we want to talk about a group of women, we might say, "A woman has fallen into sin. But if any woman repents she will…". What we would not say is, "A woman has fallen into sin. But if she repents they will…". Neither does Paul write so poorly as to use she/they when he means they/they.
The only option the grammar will give us is this: "she" is the unnamed woman Paul has been talking about. But who then are "they"? The only other person mentioned in this passage is the man that this woman is controlling. Some think it could possibly refer to the whole congregation, but Paul has not mentioned them in this section which we already determined is a unit of its own. Another aspect of the she/they question is that it is a conditional statement; that is, "she will if they". Whoever "she" is, and whatever this salvation is, it depends upon the actions of "they". This is another obstacle for the view that Paul is talking about all women, because it would mean that women can only be saved if all Christian women remain faithful.
Which raises yet another question, if the woman is unsaved: how can she remain in faith if she has not yet entered into it? "They" are people who are already in faith, already saved. So then we must also ask how any woman could be saved by the actions of others. The only clear and plain thing about this passage is that it becomes a hopelessly tangled mess if we think Paul is talking about all women!
That was a lot of detail, so let's put these verses together in a way that does not violate the rules of Greek grammar or make Paul contradict himself:
That woman you asked me about must learn, and in a respectful and humble way. I am not even giving her permission to teach, much less to oppressively control the man! She must quite down. For Adam was formed first and then Eve, and Adam was not deceived. But this woman, being completely deceived, has fallen into sin. In spite of that, she will be rescued from her deception by means of the proper spiritual upbringing, as long as they both remain in faith and love and wisdom.
At last we are ready to move on to the next section, but immediately we find ourselves embroiled in yet another controversy, this time on alleged "offices" in the ekklesia. First up is 1 Tim. 3, where Paul instructs Timothy about overseers. The Greek word is episcope and it means to supervise or watch over (lit., to look upon). But rather than the English connotation of an overseer being a boss, the Greek word is better rendered as a guardian. A guard is not a boss but a protector, watching over the area to be protected. Cities and nations do not put their kings and rulers on the perimeter as guards! While the guards are ultimately responsible for the safety of all within that perimeter, they do not have authority over anything or anyone within it; their authority is restricted to the perimeter itself.
So when scripture talks about guards, it talks about protectors, not bosses. And Paul tells Timothy that anyone (Gk. tis; the word for man or male is not there) who aspires (note: not feels called) to be a guardian, has a noble aspiration. Notice that though Paul uses singular pronouns throughout this passage (vs. 1-7), he prefaces it with "anyone", and does not use the "a woman" or "a man" construction seen before. So this is not a particular individual, but a hypothetical one. And though some insist that the use of masculine pronouns must denote that only males are in view here, Greek will use the masculine as long as there is or can be at least one male in the group. Also, we must understand that English is practically the only language in the world that does not make extensive use of grammatical gender. For example, in Greek the grammatical gender for the Spirit is neuter, and in Hebrew it is feminine. That is to say, grammatical gender has absolutely no indication of biological gender.
But the objection will be raised, "Verse two specifies that a guard must be the husband of one wife." The answer is that this is an idiom, a concept we covered a short while ago. Here is some documentation concerning this phrase:3
Paul's instruction includes only three words, "mias gunaikos andra," as one of several requirements for being an elder (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1;6) or a deacon (1 Tim. 3:12, where the pl. "andres" is used). "Gune" refers to any adult female, including wives and widows. The King James Version translates it "woman" 129 times and "wife" 92 times. The noun "gunaikos" is in the genitive and therefore deals with attribution. It may refer to relationship or quality, for "the genitive defines by attributing a quality or relationship to the noun which it modifies." Dana and Mantey define the genitive as "the case which specifies with reference to class or kind." The genitive here is used to define or describe the noun "aner." This should not be considered a possessive genitive, for that would mean that the word in the genitive indicates one who owns or possesses the noun it modifies. In that case the translation would be "a man owned by one woman." Nor can this be considered as a genitive of relationship ("a man who has [possesses] one wife") for there is no indication within the phrase or context that that relationship is implied. It is best to understand this "gunaikos" as being a genitive of quality, that is, giving a characteristic to the noun it modifies. The noun being modified is "andra," accusative singular of "aner." "Aner" is translated "man" 156 times in the King James version and "husband" only 50 times (including the passage under discussion). This accusative functions here as an object of the main verb "be" along with a long list of other accusative nouns and participles. Stated simply, the clause is "Therefore… an elder must be… a man…" The words "one woman" modify "man" to explain what kind, or to qualify the noun by attributing to him this character, Robertson adds that the genitive of quality (also called attributive genitive). "expresses quality like an adjective indeed, but with more sharpness and distinctness." He also points out that usually the genitive follows the limiting substantive, "but the genitive comes first if it is emphatic," is the case here. Since the other qualification in 1 Timothy 3 deal with the man's character and since the grammatical structure is more naturally consistent with this emphasis, it seems best to understand the phrase as meaning that he is a one-woman type of man.
In other words, this person must be faithful to their spouse. So Paul, as is clear from the whole passage, is emphasizing the person's quality of character, not their flesh. And the list of qualities is that which all believers should strive for, but which any who desire to guard must have attained. In contrast, if we take it literally, not only does this guardian have to be male, he must also be married and have children. This would disqualify Paul himself, as well as Timothy! If one of the qualities Paul lists must be taken literally, then so must the others; there would be no justification for excluding them. Ignorance of Greek expressions has been known to lead to such ridiculous questions as, "Does this mean a man can only have ever been married once, or that he can only have one wife at a time? Can he be divorced? Must he have children?" If we would just remember that God does not play favorites and does not judge by the external,4 we would avoid much needless speculation and division.
Another point in that section is the warning against approving novices as guardians. It would be interesting to study the average age of seminary graduates, and I think such a study would show that by and large Christianity has completely ignored this warning. And have we ever seen a "pastor" told to step down because his children are unruly? Or because he has a bad reputation with unbelievers? The number of scandals involving such people has been alarmingly high, but we can be sure we're only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Once again we see that these allegedly male-only verses are applied selectively, which is to say, with a double standard. If the whole passage were taken literally it would disqualify a great number of those currently employed as church bosses.
Then Paul goes on to talk about diakonos, typically transliterated for males or when the interpreter thinks a "church office" is in view, but always translated as "servant" when a female is involved. But in this context we can see that Paul does address these diakonos separately as males and females. Notice, however, that just as Paul says "likewise" to connect the qualifications for the diaconos with those of the episcopos, he also uses it to connect the male and female diaconos. That is, just as male servants are to have the same quality of character as guardians, the same is true for female servants. And it is all about the inner person, not the flesh.
Another Greek word we need to pay attention to is proistemi, typically translated as to rule. This same root is used in Rom. 16:1 of Phoebe, and we learned that she "stood before" many, that is, she protected them with benevolent rule. If this word does indicate an office, then we have scriptural proof that women could hold such an office; male supremacism cannot have it both ways, calling a prostatis a ruler for males and a helper for females.
I think, given the context of each instance of the word, that the best rendering in English is "to provide and protect", and that is what Paul is saying here about how anyone desiring to guard must be treating their own family. A person who neglects their own people is not fit to protect the community of believers. Or as Paul will say in 1 Tim. 5:8, such a person is worse than an unbeliever! Notice also in vs. 12-13 that Paul repeats the requirement of faithfulness and provision, giving us the beginning and ending of the topic.
In vs. 15 Paul makes a statement that can be taken one of two ways: either he has been telling Timothy how to conduct himself, or he has been telling him how everyone should conduct themselves. Now some take the whole phrase including "in the household of God" as that Paul is making rules of conduct for "church services" or "sanctuaries". But not only does Paul never mention such entities, the context of this letter is stopping falsehood, so the instructions he has been giving are ways in which Timothy is to make that happen, and to prevent it from happening again. The requirements for guardians are for that very purpose, as well as what Timothy himself is to do. So rather than behavior rules in a traditional church setting, these are ways of protecting the community of believers and keeping it pure. Paul even explicitly states what he means by "household of God" in vs. 15b: the ekklesia of the living God.
In the next section beginning with ch. four, Paul goes back to the main topic of false teachings. Some of the hallmarks we can look for include hair-splitting legalism (the accurate meaning of hupokrisis, typically rendered "hypocrisy"), forbidding marriage (e.g. a celibate priesthood), and commanding abstinence from certain foods (e.g. vegetarianism).
Note that in vs. 6 Paul refers to Timothy as a diakonos, not a pastor or bishop or the leader of that congregation. Then in vs. 12 he tells him to be an example in word and deed. This is the common theme in all Paul's letters: Christian ambition should always seek the lowest place of service, and the highest standards of conduct. Christianity, and the world it is supposed to be affecting, would be much different if this foundational principle were to be adopted on a grand scale.
In chapter five Paul gives general instructions for Timothy to give to various groups. In vs. 1 we see the word presbuteros, the same word also translated as "elders" in many places. Its precise meaning is determined by context, so when the context is unclear we cannot impose our personal preference and call it "the plain reading". And by this particular context, we can see that Paul is telling Timothy to treat older men and women with dignity (he uses both the male and female forms of the word), because it is part of a list that includes all other groups of people.
Now Paul addresses the situation with widows. At that time a widow was at the mercy of family for her support, and Paul makes it clear that if a widow has believing relatives, they must see to her needs and not burden the ekklesia with them. But if she has no relatives yet squanders whatever aid she receives, the ekklesia must not support her. In other words, character still matters. On the other hand, as we mentioned a short time ago, believers who refuse to care for their own are worse than unbelievers. Then Paul adds one more stipulation for supporting widows, that being a minimum age of 60. Does that mean we are to follow this age limit slavishly, and disregard all the great differences between that society and our modern western one? Not at all; we must take these instructions in the spirit they were intended. Yet at the same time, we must be careful to draw the line in the right place. There is still need to refuse aid to the irresponsible or to those who have family.
It is interesting to note that in vs. 9 we see the mirror image of the one about "a one-woman man"— and this is describing unmarried women! The Greek words are heis aner gune, or "one-man woman". Again, no matter what the order of the words, the phrases describe character, not gender roles. Or would someone actually interpret this verse as that only widows have to have good deeds, while widowers do not? These, as always, are universal Christian qualities, so Paul is emphasizing the importance of character, as is his continual practice. He does not ignore the culture but advises believers on how to conduct themselves within it.
Now we encounter another controversy starting with vs. 16. Paul gives reasons for denying younger widows the support of the ekklesia, but some take him to mean that only women are prone to such things as being idle (but see 1 Thes. 5:14 and 2 Thes. 3:6), meddling (1 Pet. 4:15), or gossiping (Rom. 1:29, 2 Cor. 12:20). However, as those references show, men are every bit as vulnerable to such things. And remember that Paul always portrays singleness as the ideal state for a believer, such that if he is now commanding all widows under 60 to marry, he is contradicting himself. Instead, remembering context, he is still dealing with how Timothy must stop what's going on there in Ephesus, listing problems specific to them. The principles Paul uses to deal with these things can certainly be adapted to other cultures and times and congregations, but they are certainly not rules etched in stone that ignore specific situations.
Now back to the topic of leaders, specifically elders. This is the word presbuteros again, but in a different immediate context, denoted clearly by the phrase which the TNIV renders "direct the affairs of the church". But the word there is proistemi, which as we have learned means to protect and provide. At any rate, the main point of contention here is what Paul means by saying such people are "worthy of double honor". The following statement about workers and wages is typically presumed to mean a paid position, since that is the literal and primary meaning. But again, look at the context, and also ask this question: If elders get double pay, then who gets single pay? Where did Paul ever set down a pay scale— and if he had, would we be consistently literal and demand that they be paid in ancient currency?
The answer is right there for us, in vs. 19. Paul is talking about what it should take to even consider any accusation made against an elder. Remember that elders are those who have attained by word and deed a reputation as spiritually mature and rightly interpreting the scriptures. Such would be very unlikely to be guilty of petty accusations, so Paul is simply saying that these people deserve some respect. Double honor means, then, that no one should be quick to accuse an elder.
But as is Paul's custom, he quickly adds balance to that statement. While it requires more than ordinary evidence to accuse an elder, once such evidence is obtained the guilty elder must pay a heavier than ordinary penalty; that is, greater honor also means greater punishment. Such guilty elders are to be publicly rebuked as a warning for everyone else (or possibly, the rest of the elders). But rarely is this practiced. Most erring "pastors" are quietly shuttled out of town, or their sins are swept under the rug. Even worse is the increasing habit of excusing such sins as the privilege of "God's Anointed", combined with making it a sin to accuse them in the first place.
This highlights another of Paul's statements that is widely ignored: to do everything without prejudice or showing favoritism (vs. 21). Once again Paul stresses unity and equality, mutual love and consistent standards, and does not grant a pass to elders or males or even Jews. Another ignored verse is 22, where Paul warns against appointing anyone to a responsible task if they are a new believer, and that anyone who does it anyway shares in that person's guilt. Seminaries and the young people they "ordain", take warning!
In chapter six we again encounter the word doulos, and their masters are called despotes (also translated as lord, manager, or steward). The same word is used in 1 Tim. 5:14 in the discussion of young widows, where they are encouraged to have children and to be the oikodespoteo, which is literally "house despot". Some claim that the man is the master of the house or head of the family, but scripture never says so, and as we see here only the wife and mother is described as such. The erroneous view that a man is the head of his family comes only from Paul's letter to the Corinithians as a preface for head coverings,5 and along with the discussion there we should note that even with the wrong interpretation, being head of a wife does not make one head of the entire family. And what Paul is telling Timothy here is of course not an endorsement of slavery, but as with other topics, he is instructing him in the way believers are to deal with this social institution.
As Paul winds down this letter, we see another instance where he is very hard on those within the community of believers who ignore sound teachings. This is hardly surprising, given the overall motive for writing the letter, that being to stop false teachings. But the point here is that Paul minces no words when dealing with those on the inside. Then he gives Timothy a strong charge to do what needs to be done, to be found faithful in his service. But notice also in these final paragraphs that Paul does not call being rich a sin (nor does he ever tell believers to strive for poverty!), but only tells people of means to be good stewards.
Lastly, in vs. 20 we see a possible reference to Gnosticism in the phrase, "what is falsely called knowledge". The Greek word is gnosis, the base from which Gnosticism is derived. Gnosticism turns this ordinary word into a special and mystical body of knowledge or level of spirituality obtained only by an elite. That Paul would summarize this letter with such a reference, being something Timothy needs to guard against, is a warning we all need to heed, especially in this modern time of the resurgence of mysticism in the forms of contemplative prayer, labyrinths, "the silence" (remember the word hesuchia?), etc. Christianity today seems more intent upon studying the writings of these thinly-veiled Gnostics than the scriptures.