“Called by God, Compelled to Serve” Part Two
Prayer, Learning, and Action—1 Timothy 2.8-15
1 Timothy 2.8-15 presents a compelling call for prayer, learning, and action. In this blog post, we’ll take a look these three aspects in order to help us understand what was going on in the Ephesian church at the time this letter was written.
Call for Prayer
The author of 1 Timothy addresses the issue of prayer in the Ephesian church(es) in verses 8-10. He commands the men to pray without anger or dispute and with uplifted and pure hands, which suggests that anger/conflict was an issue for some of the men who were praying in the church. He commands the women to dress modestly, which suggests that some of the women in the Ephesian church(es) were dressing in suggestive attire and excessive adornment for the intention of flaunting and of seducing men.
Call for Learning
In verses 11-12, the author of 1 Timothy moves from speaking about how men and women of the Ephesian church(es) should present themselves in prayer to focusing on an unnamed Ephesian woman who had heard false and heretical teachings, believed those teachings, and was spreading those teachings within the church(es) (see 1 Timothy 1.3-4 and 4.1-4). It is possible that she was interrupting the worship of others by usurping and/or undermining the teachings of the church leadership. Paul (or whoever wrote 1 Timothy 2.9-15) implores this woman to learn what is true and accurate with a quiet and submissive attitude (she must learn). The author commands that this woman be given the opportunity to learn as opposed to kicking her out of the church. She was not silenced just because she was a woman. She was silenced because she was deceived by false teachers and was spreading false doctrine throughout the church(es); therefore, she must learn what is true and accurate before she can serve in leadership.
In verses 13-15a, the author of 1 Timothy 2 uses part of the creation narrative to create an analogy between Eve and the Ephesian woman who was spreading heretical teachings throughout the church (see my blog posting on Genesis 3 to read about how our understanding of Genesis creates a basis for how we understand various passages in the New Testament… http://alainebuchanan.com/?p=258). The author of 1 Timothy likely refers to the creation narrative of Genesis 2 and 3 to refute the popular viewpoint of Ephesian Artemis worshippers who believed that Artemis (the Ephesian fertility goddess) appeared first and then created her male consort. He corrects this perspective by explaining that Scripture tells us that Adam was created first and then Eve. He also uses this creation story to serve as an analogy between Eve and this particular Ephesian woman. Both women listened to a voice of false teaching, both were deceived, and both spread that false teaching to others (Adam in Genesis and various members of the Ephesian church in 1 Timothy).
Call for Action
In verse 15b, the author returns to speaking about women (in general) in the Ephesian church(es) and encourages them to continue on in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.
Overall, the author of 1 Timothy was not silencing godly women. He was not forbidding them from teaching in church, and he was not diminishing their call to ministry. Rather, he was likely imploring an unnamed Ephesian woman to learn, know, and understand Scripture in order to appropriately teach it….and he was encouraging everyone in the Ephesian church (both men and women) to pray.
Questions for Discussion
- Do these specific commands for prayer (vs. 8-10), learning (vs. 11-15a), and acting (15b) apply to us today? Why or why not?
- How does this passage influence your beliefs about women in leadership positions in the church?
Women throughout the Roman Empire in the first century CE were gaining economic independence, assumed greater roles in the public sector, and began to overthrow traditional domestic roles. One way to advertise a woman’s wealth and status was to flaunt their wealth via their clothing.
In reality, Paul requires everyone to be teachable and to learn with a quiet and submissive attitude before being launched out as a leader.
© Alaine Thomson Buchanan 2014