Thursday, April 26, 2012

Excerpt from Timothy’s First Letter to Paul, and Paul's Response


Thinking about the role of women in Christianity, a friend of mine came up with the following hypothetical letter to Paul from Timothy, which letter we don't have a record of, and Paul's response.

Ephesus, where Timothy lived (1 Tim 1:3), was the headquarters of the cult of the Roman fertility goddess Diana (in Acts 19 it's the Greek "Artemis"), a town in which the women often dominated, especially in religious settings. In light of this, my friend's hypothetical letter below seems to make sense. Neither she nor I are saying that's how it was, but it's interesting enough I wanted to pass it on.

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Excerpt from Timothy’s First Letter to Paul

Now, Paul, I need to ask you to address some problems we are having with the women in the congregation. I realize that we are all one in Christ, that there is no Jew or Gentile, no male or female, no slave or free. And I realize the Holy Spirit has given the gift of prophecy to women as well and that they are free to teach as they are being led. But we have some women in the congregation who are extremely outspoken about teachings that are contrary to Christ’s will and they refuse to submit to His truth, specifically with regards to the equality of men and women. Instead, it often becomes a screaming contest where the loudest woman “wins”. It is breaking down the congregation, not building it up. I understand the culture many of our women come out of, where temple prostitutes violently dominate men and degrade men for a living. Where the goddess is “worshiped” through sex and female domination and where children are aborted and pregnancy is a curse. This is what these women see every day in the street. Some of them even WERE temple prostitutes. But instead of turning away from this culture, some of the women are trying to bring this culture into our congregation! They not only teach violent domination of men, they also practice it, proudly and outspokenly! They try to degrade men all the time. They teach outright that Eve was formed first, then Adam and that Adam was the one who was deceived and sinned, not Eve. They also teach, as the temple prostitutes believe, that becoming pregnant and bearing and keeping your child condemns you to hell. Please help me untangle this mess. Maybe they will be more inclined to hear and submit to the truth if it comes directly from your pen.

Paul's Response, in 1  Tim 2:11-15

Dear Timothy,

Please find below my response to the issues you are dealing with.
Now, Paul, I need to ask you to address some problems we are having with the women in the congregation. I realise that we are all one in Christ, that there is no Jew or Gentile, no male or female, no slave or free. And I realise the Holy Spirit has given the gift of prophecy to women as well and that they are free to teach as they are being led. But we have some women in the congregation who are extremely outspoken about teachings that are contrary to Christ’s will and they refuse to submit to His truth, specifically with regards to the equality of men and women. Instead, it often becomes a screaming contest where the loudest woman “wins”. It is breaking down the congregation, not building it up. 
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.
I understand the culture many of our women come out of, where temple prostitutes violently dominate men and degrade men for a living. Where the goddess is “worshipped” through sex and female domination and where children are aborted and pregnancy is a curse. This is what these women see every day in the street. Some of them even WERE temple prostitutes. But instead of turning away from this culture, some of the women are trying to bring this culture into our congregation! They not only teach violent domination of men, they also practice it, proudly and outspokenly! 
I do not permit a woman to teach [violent domination] or to practice violent domination* over a man; she must be silent.
They try to degrade men all the time. They teach outright that Eve was formed first, then Adam and that Adam was the one who was deceived and sinned, not Eve. 
For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.
They also teach, as the temple prostitutes believe, that becoming pregnant and bearing and keeping your child condems you to hell. Please help me untangle this mess. Maybe they will be more inclined to hear and submit to the truth if it comes directly from your pen.
But women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.


*Noteworthy: the word used for “to have authority over” is “authentein” – can be translated as “domination [with a violent connotation]” as well as several other possible translations. It does not occur in any other place in the Bible.

1 comment:

wjcsydney said...

"like"!