Women: Silence Subjection and Childbirth

How differently portions of our Bibles would read if Christianity had not been gender-divided so early in its history. The general interpretation and popular mistranslation of the passage below, is a result of ancient anti-woman bias. The refusal to stop using a cultural, situational, and misunderstood passage as a basis for the continuing subjugation of women, today, is the result of modern anti-woman bias.

1 Timothy 2:8-15

I will therefore the men in every place pray, lifting up holy hands without wrath and reasonings 9: And the women do likewise [pray, lifting up holy hands…,] adorning themselves in modest apparel with reverence [2] and self-restraint not with [extravagantly] braided hair or gold or pearls or costly array [3] 10: But [that] which [is] becoming [to] women professing godliness with good works 11: women [who] in quietness learn in all compliance [with that which is right][4]  12: But I suffer not a woman to teach nor to usurp authority over the man but to be in silence [5] 13: For Adam was first formed then Eve[6] 14: And Adam was not deceived but the woman being deceived was in the transgression[7] 15: Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety[8]

[1] Below is an excerpt from the Hungry Hearts Online Bible Commentary HHBC 

[2]  How is it that, in virtually every translation, only men appear to be included in the instructions to pray and praise, when the text clearly includes women? The word “likewise” is a reference to the same instruction given to men and “likewise” to the women. The men were instructed to pray and praise without anger and doubtful disputations, and the women were instructed to pray and praise without becoming slaves to fashion. But somehow, through gender-biased-English-translation-theology, verses :8 and :9, somehow became a holy instruction for men in how to pray and praise, followed by a lecture for women to be ashamed of themselves and watch how they dress. All translations that leave the women out of the instructions on prayer and praise [and the misogyny which lies at the root of such malicious scholarship], are shameful mistranslations. Concerning verse :9, 19th Century scholar, Katherine Bushnell dealt with the made-up word, “shamefacedness [used in the A. V.] and the fashion instructions. She wrote “To array themselves in a befitting catastola, with reverence and self-restraint.” Under the conditions of peril to women, it was very appropriate for the Apostle to impress the need of a very unobtrusive costume for the women who took part in public meetings. Indeed it were well if the Christian women of our own day would obey the Scriptural injunctions regarding plain and unobtrusive dressing; women sin greatly in this regard. The catastola is mentioned in Scripture only here and in the Greek O. T. version at Isaiah 61:3. It was a loose garment that reached to the feet, and was worn with a girdle. The word may be used as an equivalent for “garment,” yet it seems more likely that the Apostle should have used this rare term (rare in Scripture), rather in its specific application. A spirit of “reverence and self-restraint” would ever prevent a woman from becoming a mere tool of fashion. The word ”reverence” (aidos) translated “shamefacedness,” is used in only one other place in the N. T., Hebrews 12:28. It was not necessary for the translators to concoct an “unmeaning corruption,” as Dean Alford calls “shamefacedness,” in order to describe what the word means, because it applied to women. The Revisers changed it to “shamefastness,”an obsolete word without meaning to the average mind; excepting that both words convey the sense that women should always be ashamed of themselves. http://godswordtowomen.org/Lesson%2043.htm (2 of 4) [11/30/2009 8:55:52 PM] PAUL’S WORDS TO TIMOTHY EXPLAINED.

[3] Are braids, jewelry, and fashionable clothing sinful? Most modern Christians agree the reference to braiding hair in this verse, had to do with a cultural prohibition and [today] completely disregard the instruction. But, as with anything, hair and jewelry fashion have the potential of becoming sinful stumbling blocks. Temperance and moderation become all Christians. Both problems dealt with in verses :8 and :9, can afflict either sex, but the apostle obviously felt that men were more likely to stumble through anger and doubtful reasonings/disputings, while women were more prone to stumble through becoming obsessed with fashion.

[4] The question in verse :11, regarding compliance, is *compliance with what? This writer does not believe that compliance with men is the meaning here. Such a definition would be in line with virtually all cultures—up to the present day—but would contradict the whole of scripture; the prophet Joel, and the words and actions of Paul, in both learning from and supporting the unfettered speaking and leading ministries of women. Women both spoke and taught under the Old Covenant, and even more so under the New Covenant [especially so in the early church] but were generally kept “in their place,” by the Jewish culture and all cultures in the ancient world. Women continue to be oppressed in most cultures in the modern world. Even many democratic cultures have those within them that use religion to keep women in perpetual subjection to men, e.g., the the Jewish culture in Israel (Israel actually passed an Equal Rights Amendment),  and the Christian culture [through the efforts of CBMW] in the United States.    

The hierarchical translating of hypo” words , such as hypotagē (pronounced hü-po-tä-gā'), as subjection, submit, or be subject to, is not in line with New Covenant usage, which defines itself in 1 Peter 5:5 (A.V.) and in Ephesians 5:21, as preferring one another before ourselves, i.e., the golden rule (which is based on the words of Jesus in Luke 10:27). The definition of the prefix hypo as always denoting the hierarchical position of “under” is false, as evidenced by the use of the word hypo as meaning “over,” in 2 Corinthians 2:11. Yet, not a single lexicon reflects that nor includes the definition of “over” regarding the the primary preposition, hypo.

*Translator supplements are common and frequently helpful. But care must be exercised in considering both context and the tone of scripture as a whole. 

[5]  How are we to understand verses :11 and :12 in light of the fact that Paul himself was taught by the woman, Priscilla, and In his letter to the Corinthians, he included protocol for women speaking publicly? If, in 1 Timothy, he is teaching absolute and utter silence and subjection for all women, then he is not only in contradiction of his own teaching but is commanding God’s people to disregard the scriptures themselves. The sacred writings of the Jews, not only featured women speaking and teaching, but foretold the time the Apostle was living in fulfillment of, the time when women would in great numbers begin to freely and authoritatively preach and prophesy. Since few believe that Paul was contradicting himself and commanding believers to disregard the scriptures, then he must have meant something else entirely and not the popular interpretation of male dominance when he wrote this passage. 

In the book, Woman this is War! Gender, Slavery and the Evangelical Caste System, this commentator wrote: “The apostle wrote, “For Adam was first formed then Eve. And Adam was not deceived but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” This verse in 1 Timothy 2:…, corresponds with the verses in 1 Corinthian 14:34-35 where women are forbidden to speak, “as also saith the Law…” Yet nowhere in the Law of Moses are women forbidden to speak. The words of holy women who spoke are recorded in the Bible on equal basis with the words of holy men. So, Paul must have been referring to extra-scriptural oral tradition—which, in any case, is not authoritative. Even if we could find [in the scriptures—which we cannot] where such a thing was written, those of us who have been born again and have committed our lives to Jesus Christ [both men and women], have been redeemed from both the transgression and from the Law. Born again Christian men and women are no longer in the transgression nor are they under the Law

So who are these women Paul refers to who are in the transgression and under the Law? As Margaret Fell brought to our attention in the seventeenth century, they were obviously unsaved Jewish women who were attending church with their saved husbands. The likelihood of that being the case was high, as Paul chose the residence which adjoined to the synagogue in which to conduct his first Christian meetings in Corinth. The leader of the synagogue was one of his converts. It is known that after his departure, meetings continued in that location. It would not be inappropriate to assume that converted Jewish husbands would bring unconverted Jewish wives to the Christian meetings. Taking advantage of the freedom given to Christian women, though not yet accepting Christ themselves, these wives likely felt free to carry on conversations with their husbands during the meetings. In addition to being disruptive, these unsaved women must also have been the ones exhibiting the bad example of wearing excessive jewelry, extravagantly styled hair, and expensive clothing. Corinth was a center of commerce. Not only was it known to be an extremely materialistic city, but the Jews, under the Law of Moses believed that material prosperity reflected the approval of God. It was inevitable and understandable that Paul would feel the need to issue warnings against these kinds of ostentatious displays. Paul’s admonitions were obviously heeded, because the Church in Corinth eventually became known for its piety and adherence to scriptural godliness. We cannot know the exact scenario, but we do know that it was to women who were still in the transgression and still under the Law that Paul commanded to silence and instructed to wait and ask their [saved] husbands at home about the things concerning Christianity that they did not yet understand. The apostle was clearly not addressing redeemed, Christian, women, nor was he issuing general instruction the church or married couples about leadership or role relationships.

In the 19th Century, medical doctor, missionary, and Hebrew/Greek scholar, Katherine Bushnell, had this to say about the passage in 1 Timothy 2:  Occasionally a Bible expositor comments on the seemingly narrower sphere allotted to women under the Gospel than was accorded them under the law. Kalisch says: "The New Testament is . . . even more rigorous than the Old; for whilst it commands the woman 'to learn in silence with all subjection, but not to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence,' she was in the Old Testament admitted to the highest office of teaching, that of prophets, as Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah." But we may well suspect such an interpretation of the Bible as makes the Gospel appear less kindly, less liberal, more contemptuous toward women than the Old Testament law, and which represents women as less able, by grace, to conquer the vices of the sex and rise above them, than the law enabled them to do. There must be something wrong in such a representation. We should constantly bear in mind; in studying these Lessons, the point we have made: It was during the "days of mingling," especially, that the teaching got hold of the mind of the Jew, that his wife, merely because of her sex, was his inferior. It was during these days that the first translation of the Bible—the Septuagint Greek version—was made**. This version, in some places, incorporated in its renderings the idea of woman's inferiority; and all other versions since have followed suit, more or less. "Men only need," says Dr. Beard, "to bring to the Bible sufficiently strong prepossessions, sufficiently fixed opinions, to have them reflected back in all the glamour of infallible authority" (Beard's Hibbert Lectures, p. 192). 

**Notes: For the most part, all but educated Jews lost their knowledge of Hebrew during the seventy years of captivity in Babylon. After their return, the Oral Law came into being (Nehemiah 8:8) which is the basis of the Targums and the Talmud.

[6] Paul was not teaching gender-based primogeniture. The interpretation of this verse to mean that males are somehow superior and designed to lead women because Iysh (man) was formed before Ishshaw (woman), loses credibility when considered in light of the fact that all of life, except the woman, was created before the man. Creation order has no hierarchical significance. The same crowd that teaches primogeniture, also teaches that audawm (both Ishshaw and Iysh) was God’s crowning creation because they were created last. This commentator agrees that audawm is God’s crowning creation, not because humanity was created last, but because every human is created in his image, with no gender-based differences in that respect. So, exactly what did Paul mean by this statement? No one really knows.

[7] Both Iysh and Ishshaw fell from grace. So interpret this passage to mean that only the woman needed redemption is a gross misinterpretation. And no one to date has gone so far as to suggest that. Yet Christian patriarchy ignores the problems created by their interpretation of portions of the passage, while refusing to address how the implications of their view impact the entire passage. Despite glaring inconsistencies, they continue to use obscure verses that twist and contradict the entire message and tone of the  gospel in defense of their scripturally indefensible position of male dominance .

[8] What a checklist for women to follow if they want to saved! Does any thinking Christian really believe that salvation by faith alone is meant only for men, while women must tow the line, having babies and watching everything they do or say, because any lapse of faith or faltering step could be the thing that spirals them straight into hell? The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood cites only a portion of this passage, in efforts to under-gird their doctrine of male dominance. They ignore the calling and scriptural authority of God’s daughters, while disregarding the context of the entire passage, which makes it clear that it is unsaved women he is referring to. Who but the unsaved could be “in the transgression?” Role-religionists, make no attempt at interpreting verse :15, even though it completes the thought.  What could Paul have meant when he wrote that women are saved by childbirth? No one really knows, even though some Christian sects, such as the patriarchal quiverful movement [that the Southern Baptist Convention seems to have come on-board with, since Al Mohler’s uncontested statement that he believed birth-control was against God’s plan] behave as though they believe 1 Timothy 2:15 literally. Even so, no respected scholar agrees that Paul taught that giving birth is a means of salvation for women.

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