The Pastoral Epistle to Timothy and Paul’s ‘Silence’ of Women.

1 Timothy 2:11-15 KJV

“Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”

The Apostle Paul wrote his Epistles to Timothy during the last phase of his life. At that time, he was imprisoned in Rome and facing execution. It appears all but a few had abandoned him, which left Paul clinging to the hope that the young Timothy would carry out his vision for the fledgling Christian Church. I spent a lot of time reading and re-reading Paul’s Epistles to Timothy, and I got a sense of the deep anguish he was experiencing at that time.

Paul had run the race and finished the course, he was satisfied to have completed his mission; and while he looked forward to his rewards, his words were sorrowful. Paul knew he was leaving behind a Church in the grips of Gnosticism. Although the real second-century Gnosticism did not eventuate until after Paul’s Epistles to Timothy, Paul seemed aware of its potential dangers. The Gnosticism Paul was referring to was home grown and mystic. I intend to write more about the types of Gnosticism that confronted the early church at another time.

Paul lacked an heir, which made it more important that his prodigy Timothy, knew how to manage this imminent threat of Gnosticism. Reading from his other comments, this new form of ‘knowledge’ may have become rooted in church members with too much time on their hands. I was left with no doubt that Paul believed women were more open to these deceptions than men were. Besides Paul’s tattling, prattling, busy-bodying and women being gullible comments he also provided Timothy with some solid guidelines to manage the unruly and troublesome members of his congregation.

The ‘I’ should be emphasized in Paul’s admonition to Timothy. ‘I,’ “do not permit a woman to teach,” We could assume then, it was his preference or the way he did things. Also, it would be okay to assume that others did not share his views. And certainly, today, unless you belong to a Baptist Church, or similar, most Christian Churches do not follow Paul’s instruction. Yet very few openly express their disagreement with Paul’s views.

Paul stands alone in his views on women in the New Testament, and yet he stated, let everything be established in the mouth of two or three witnesses. Something that was very much part of his Hebrew tradition. Speaking of his Hebrew Tradition, his instruction for Timothy’s “Apt to teach” comment is directly from the Traditions (Pirke Avot). In Talmudic Tradition also, “The men came to learn, the women came to hear.” Something that is still practiced today in most Synagogues, women are mere spectators, and the men are the participators. The word ‘learn’ is loaded in this instance, inferring that women are incapable of receiving instruction. Therefore, it is more appropriate for them to ‘hear.’

Despite, the Christian Church today practicing an openness for all members to participate, some diehards still adhere to what Paul said in a literal sense. I respect these are personal convictions and should an individual wish to follow Paul’s instructions word for word, it should be their prerogative. And I will not try to convince them otherwise. Nevertheless, I will state my views on why this passage is vague and disjointed. And for me, it lacks logic and coherency. The reasons Paul gives for his beliefs, just do not make sense to me, and that is why I have a problem with 1 Timothy 2:11-15.

Paul refers to Genesis Ch. 2 which states that the male was created first, and since he (Adam) could not find companionship amongst the animals, God made the female. But we are to assume, that male and female already existed in the animal kingdom. My preference is to believe it was always God’s intention to make male and female (Human, as in Genesis Ch. 1) and that the woman was never some afterthought, like Genesis Ch.2 suggests. My preference is also to believe that the ‘Yahwist’s’ took licence in Genesis Ch. 2, to offer some exegesis which emphasised the Jewishness of Adam, the dominance of the male, the significance of Sabbath and the Tree of Life.

Paul’s second reason for silencing women, also stems from the Garden of Eden. As if being a second creation is not enough to bear, he places the woes of the world squarely on Eve’s shoulders. If I am to interpret his comments correctly, Paul is implying that, because Eve was deceived first, the ability to be easily deceived is inherent in the character of all women. As punishment for the original deception, all women everywhere, for all time should learn in silence. This type of attitude does not acknowledge Adam’s role in the deception and that both parties repented and together produced Seth, the righteous seed. I accept there can be no remission of sin for repeat offenders, but in this case, it was Eve’s first violation of God’s command, therefore I do not accept that the stigma of the sin is permanent or that all women should be judged accordingly. I do accept there were consequences for the original sin, but I cannot see how not being allowed to speak has anything to do with that. The Genesis text does not suggest that a consequence was silence.

There appears to be some consolation from Paul’s perspective; and that is that women will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, charity, holiness, and sobriety. No mention of ‘silence,’ because of the two reasons for ‘learning in silence’ he gave earlier. The reasons Paul gave were that women were created after Adam as in Genesis Ch.2 and that they tended to be easily deceived. Both reasons lack logic and do not provide any conclusive evidence as to why women should learn in silence.

My testimony of when I was told to be silent:

As someone who came to Christ in a Baptist Church I was taught from my earliest days about my low status as a woman in the Church. However, God had other plans for me.

God supernaturally opened the heavens and poured out His Holy Spirit on me, and from then on, I was filled with boldness and no Baptist Pastor was ever going to shut me up!

Certain men made it their business to educate me in Paul’s teaching in 1 Timothy 2:11-15. I decided for the sake of my youth and keeping the peace, I would be obedient to their wishes.

But God disapproved of my silence, he gave me a dream, and someone had placed a huge black toilet plunger over my mouth. The suction had sealed my mouth completely and, in the dream, it felt the same as me restricting God’s Holy Spirit from speaking through me. I knew I had to remove this dreadful object. So, I stuck my finger in-between the plunger and my skin and released it. And I was free again.

Although that was not enough for me, I needed more confirmation that I was not in violation of God’s commands. I heard there was a Prophet holding a meeting a couple of hours away. I prayed and told God, I will go before him and tell him my problem and whatever he tells me to do I will do. When I arrived at the meeting and saw the Prophet up close and personal, I got cold feet. I could not bring myself to tell him anything. I just stood there quietly in the congregation.

Then the man of God called me up to the front and prophesied everything that I came to see him about. I had never seen that man or anyone in that meeting before. And I never told anyone about my inward struggles or why I was there. I still have that prophesy and listen to it from time to time. Concisely, God’s message to me that night was noticeably clear, “Whatever I command you to say, you must say it.” There was much more, which I keep to myself. The fire of God touched my mouth, like the hot coals from the very throne of God that night and I never questioned my calling again.

Ironically, I still get challenged about writing, speaking, and teaching as a Christian woman. And my answer to my critics is this … “I would rather be judged as a woman that does too much than a man who does too little.” Thank God for the witness of the Christian women who reach millions with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Cheryl Mason.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: