Saturday, January 5, 2008

1 Timothy 2

What is this passage all about?

Paul gives directions to Timothy regarding communal prayer in light of the gospel, and the necessity of female modesty and submission in light of the sin of Eve.

What can I learn from this?

Several things jump out at me from this passage. The first is Paul's instruction (v1-2ff) for prayer (etc) on behalf of everyone especially rulers and those with authority. Paul's reasons for this prayer include that people may live godly and holy lives, which please God. I have heard people say that we get the government we deserve, because of the choices we make in this democracy. In conrast, it seems to me that here Paul (who lived under the Roman emperors Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius Caligula, Claudius and Nero - the one who burned Rome and blamed the Christians, and is presumed to have eventually exectued Paul) writes that we get the government we pray for.

Again, Paul returns to the topic of the gospel, when he explains that "... there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men..." (2:5-6). It is pretty clear that Paul would have nothing to do with the nonsense of many ways to God that we hear so much of today. Paul taught that there was one way to a relationship with God - through the mediation of Jesus Christ.

After dealing with prayer, Paul considers women in the church. I know that some commentators consider the "woman" from v11&12 to be a certain particular woman who was outspoken and disruptive in the Ephesus church, and I don't have my Greek scholar husband here to ask for his opinion. It seems clear from Paul's other mentions of Christian women (eg Lydia, Phoebe, Tryphena, Tryphosa and Persis, to name but a few) that Paul was very grateful for the active service of women in the kingdom, so it is not like Paul objected to that. Indeed, those great travellers Pricilla and Aquila were in Ephesus when Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:19, cf Acts 18:19). From other references (Romans 16:3-5a; 1 Corinthians 16:19, and particularly Acts 18:1-3,18-28) it is clear that Pricilla was involved with her husband Aquila in hosting a church in their Ephesus home and explaining the word of God there (Acts 18:26). So it seems very strange to me that Paul might be intending that all women should be silent (as some argue), or even all women in Ephesus, because right in that very city Priscilla was teaching adequately with her husband - and Paul refers to Priscilla positively so many times in his letters (and never negatively) - that it seems clear he cannot be referring to her as the particular woman in these verses. Yet, unlike in 1:20 (where Paul is not reluctant in his condemnation of Hymanaeus and Alexander,) Paul does not mention the name of the woman here. And it is not just because she is a woman, because in Philippians 4:2 Paul corrects the women Euodia and Syntyche openly. So I am not sure why Paul was circumspect here, but I do have to conclude that he was giving directions with regard to an individual woman who is not to be allowed to teach publicly in the church, and that these particular directions do not necessarily hold for all Christian women. (I know this neglects 1 Corinthians 11:5ff and 14:33-35, but I can't deal with them here right now.) Two things is clear: the purpose of this dictum is wrong behaviour arising from false teaching in the church; and Paul desires that learning in the churches shall combat error.

Verse 15 also caught my eye: "But women [footnote: she] will be saved [footnote: restored] through childbearing - if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety." This verse intrigues me, and so I've just checked out what the Tyndale New Testament Commentary The Pastoral Epistles by Donald Guthrie has to say on this verse. Guthrie lists several suggestions for understanding this verse. Guthrie's selection for the most plausible is that the Greek "she" may refer to Eve (given the context of vv13-14), and the "child-bearing" reference relate to the bearing of the Messiah by a woman (with an allusion to Genesis 3:15-16.) This explains the reference to salvation. The plural "they" is, in this analysis, taken to indicate Eve and her successors, Chrisitan women.

How can I apply this to my own life?

Pray for leaders of government, both in power (Kevin Rudd, Alan Carpenter and in opposition (Brendan Nelson, Paul Omodei), with an view towards political situations where there is opportunity for Australian's to act

Listen, pay attention, concentrate: to the sermon in church and other times when I am taught publicly, so that I may continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

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