Recall from our previous studies that we have to understand the historical context of the letter that is written so that we may understand what is being said, and sometimes it makes the Scripture even more relevant to what is going on in our lives as we begin to see what is really being addressed and what is actually being said. We will consider this here, and concerning these Pastoral Epistles, that will involve some controversy as it turns out.
There are several attacks on the authorship of these letters, and it is more practical to deal with them all at once, because they are the same for each letter. There are four primary areas of attack:
- The letters cannot be attached to the known history of the book of Acts.
- Attempts to confuse the relationship between Paul and Timothy.
- Different tone, style, and vocabulary in these letters argue different authorship.
- Specific heresies and ecclesiastical structure too advanced for the time period.
Commentators are divided on the authorship of these letters, because of certain things we simply do not know historically from those days. Some (usually more liberal scholars trying to attack the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture) have taken this as an occasion to insist that Paul did not write these letters (not including Philemon, which includes personal details of events that make this kind of thing impossible). For example, Marcion, who rejected the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament portion of our Bible) and the God of Israel because of the wrathful aspects of His nature, did not include 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus in his canon EVEN THOUGH HE KNEW OF THE LETTERS. Marcion rejected these letters as inspired because they didn’t line up with what he believed. Let’s take that as a caution not to do the same, especially in this day of compromise for the sake of so-called social justice which really isn’t. We can get into that another time.
Something else that is useful in study is to play the conversation through in your head as one of the participants. What did Paul sound like, for example, when he told Timothy that he needed to pray for everybody, especially for those that were in authority positions over them? And what must Timothy have been thinking? We’ll look at that today.
Last time, we looked at the introduction of Paul and noted it was very short, marking his familiarity with the recipient Timothy. He encouraged Timothy to stay on at Ephesus where he was, suggesting the Timothy was perhaps looking to leave Ephesus to other, greener pastures, so to speak. In fact, Timothy had a difficult job there at Ephesus, because things had, like Paul had said before his first imprisonment, wicked men had arisen, some from within, some from without, leading the flock of Ephesus astray from their first love, Christ. These false teachers and brethren spoke from a seared conscience, and had begun to turn to myths and genealogies. There were both Jewish and Gentile components to this false teaching, and already most of the components of what would later be called Gnosticism were already in place. Paul had already dealt with these things in some measure in his letter to the Colossians, so modern critics who claim that Paul could not have authored this letter because he was addressing Gnosticism which didn’t come along until the second century clearly have ignored Colossians, of which no one disputes the authorship. I love critics that aren’t paying attention.
Paul instead refers Timothy to Paul’s own testimony to give the main point of Christianity – God reconciles the worst sinners to Himself to show that the way is open for everyone that will accept that Jesus paid the price of redemption for them personally, and that is worth all the fight we can muster. Some had given up that fight, and had suffered shipwreck of their faith, and Paul even named examples of two such men, Hymenaeus and Alexander, who he said had been delivered to Satan so they might be taught not to misuse the name of the Lord.
That brings us to today’s chapter, but before we begin, I feel the obligation to inform you that there are again things that people don’t like to talk about, and certainly things over which Christians disagree. Chapters like this are why I include this kind of disclaimer – don’t believe a word I say. Read it for yourself, pray that the Lord would show you the truth of the matter, and then do your own research. Don’t criticize what I have to say before doing your own work and reaching your own conclusions. I’m not asking you to agree with me, and I will state for the record that I am willing to change if I hear a compelling enough argument. So with that said, let’s dig in to 1 Timothy 2.
1: First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,
- Given the context of what was said in the last chapter, what is the thing Paul says next? To pray. Paul even mentions different kinds of prayer. Entreaties are the kind of prayer where you are asking for something like you were right there with them. The word Prayer here is the Greek proseuche, and means earnest prayer. Petitions are like the requests for provision or the movement of the Lord’s hand, and thanksgivings are exactly what they sound like. And for whom are we to pray? For aunt Bessie’s big toe, right? Well, as important as that is, it says “on behalf of all men,” or literally, over all people [pas anthropos]. We are to pray for all of humankind in these ways. Especially for a particular group that Paul is about to mention.
2: for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
- Remember I talked about historical context, and how it can sometimes give some real weight to what is being said? This is one of those times. Who was Paul? Well, if I’m correct, Paul is a freshly released prisoner of Rome. And who is king at the moment in Rome? That’s right, none other than Caesar Nero!
- Now – Timothy has been to Rome to see Paul, and knows he was in prison there. He’s aware of the persecutions that were increasingly coming from not just the Jews but from the Roman authorities. How do you think HE feels about praying for Caesar Nero? Not very well, I would think.
- Paul mentions this specifically because he realizes that it may not be on Timothy’s priority list! But how does Paul want us to pray? Well, he begins here to tell Timothy that this is so we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. But he finishes this thought over the next two verses.
3: This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,
- Paul assures Timothy that this is in fact a good thing. Why? What could make this a good thing?
4: who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
- And there is the shoe dropping, so to speak. This is praying for the salvation of pas anthropos, the salvation of the human race! He is telling us to pray, as I have heard it said, for the world, especially the authorities, evangelistically! So that they might be saved! Will they be? Who knows? That’s why we should pray!
- What is that truth? An honest reading of scripture will tell you that Man disobeyed God and incurred to himself separation from God and wrath. However, God loved (and still loves) us, and from what it says right here in this verse, wants us to be saved from the wrath we incurred as a penalty for our disobedience, and SO, He became a Man – in the person of Jesus Christ – who lived a sinless life under the Mosaic Law and then willingly allowed Himself to be crucified in OUR place. In doing so, He paid our price of redemption, that is he paid the price to purchase us back from our separation and redeem us as His own possession. And on the third day, He rose from the grave to show that He had set us free from the penalty of sin, that separation, and also from its power in our lives, so that we no longer have to be the way we were!
- God wants everyone to know this, and God want all of us to pray for all of mankind, for our leaders, and especially for those closest to us, that is, those in our own sphere of contact and influence.
5: For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
- Paul begins to explain. There is one God. What does he mean by this? Well, Paul was a (formerly) Pharisee, and I believe he had this in mind: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” (Deut. 6:4) God the Lawmaker, the great Lawgiver is one. And likewise, there is one mediator between a holy God and sinful men – the Man, Christ Jesus.
- Notice Paul’s individually unique use of “Christ Jesus” as opposed to how every other New Testament writer puts it, Jesus Christ. Some commentators have suggested that this is a nuanced difference, because Paul also calls Him Jesus Christ, but it essentially is a difference of emphasis. When Paul wants to emphasize the human Jesus, Jesus comes first. When Paul wants to show the divine aspect of Him, He is Christ Jesus. Although this does have some weight, I think it comes down to how Paul met Jesus.
- Think of how all the other Apostles met Jesus. They were introduced to Him as Jesus, and they all came to know the man and rabbi before coming to know Him as the Messiah, the Son of the living God, as in Matt. 16:16. Paul’s story is recorded in Acts 9. He was running headlong on the road to Damascus when Saul of Tarsus met the risen Messiah in all His glory and came to a full stop. Paul was the only one that met Him first after His resurrection, and because of the manner of the meeting, Paul learned about the power of God in Christ immediately and first-hand, not a revelation or a voice from heaven and some dawning of understanding.
6: who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.
- Referring to this Hebrew Messiah, or Greek Christ, or English Anointed One of God, it tells us that He gave Himself as a ransom [antilutron, a combination word; lutron means ransom, anti is the Greek prefix that means “in place of,” used here to indicate that he gave Himself as a ransom in our place!].
- Paul calls this the “testimony” or “witness;” the Greek here is marturion, and we get our English word Martyr from it. It has different connotations than the Greek, it simply means testimony, or a statement (verbal or otherwise) of fact given in evidence. And when was this statement given?
- “At the proper time.” The translation matrix can include “in its own season,” which I find more intellectually and grammatically satisfying for some reason.
7: For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
- That’s the very reason I’m here, says Paul. I was “placed” as a “herald” and a “messenger on a mission,” The next phrase seems to be a Greek idiom, much like our own, “that’s the truth – yeah, no lie!” Paul further dials in a little, saying that he is an “instructor” of the Gentiles in faith [pistis] and truth [alethia]. (how to think and what is real)
8: Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.
- This section begins a new paragraph in my opinion, based on Paul’s use of the word “therefore.” And we all know what we say about “therefore” – we need to see what it’s there for! And a preposition is a poor word to end a sentence with! 😉
- Both men and women are to receive instruction on what is coming next, and this seems like a good place to introduce some of the conflicting opinions about the meaning of the next few verses. First I need to introduce a couple of concepts that have complicated sounding names, but once you know what they mean, you will understand how they are used and what to do with them. We’ll try to explain what the implications are as we go through the passages, because they have different accompanying worldview consequences.
- Complementarianism: The belief that men and women are equal partners in life, but have different roles and responsibilities within the church.
- Egalitarianism: The belief that men and women are equal partners in creation in every respect and that extends to the church.
- In reality, there are even more extreme positions, but these are the two that most talk about. (Past Complementarianism is Patriarchy, and in the other direction past Egalitarianism is Genderless.) We don’t talk about the extreme positions in the church, because no one accepts them here.
- This next set of verses is most of the argument over whether women can hold real leadership positions in the church or not. By way of information, the Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec give what is called soul liberty on this topic, meaning that the leadership of the particular church chooses its form of adherence, usually called a regulative principle. This is a little more than a regulative principle, however. This should be the theological basis of how your local church is governed in matters of doctrine and practice.
- The text starts with the expected behaviour of the men. Paul explains that he wants the men [aner, males in gender] in every place to pray (which he has already described in this chapter).
- Lifting up holy hands. The word for “holy” is NOT the typical word “hagios” as we have come to know. The word here is hosios, and carries the meaning of righteous, or pious behaviour. Commentators are divided on what this actually means, from the lifting of your palms toward heaven in worship, all the way to those who have not been righteous in their behaviour all week being barred from participating in communion (though those tend to be somewhat self-regulating in the sense that the individual believer has the onus of self-examination). I rather think it means if you are not walking in the Spirit, as we have repeatedly discussed in our study of Paul’s letters so far, you are in need of repentance and a certain putting to death of the flesh, as Paul words it in several places. I think this is a metaphor for walking in the Spirit, personally, though I certainly have no issue with those that would like to lift their hands physically. Remember, this is talking to the MEN so far.
- Without wrath and dissension. An interesting translation of this, according to my lexicon, would be, “separate from impulsive anger and [argumentative] reasoning.” I know, we’re Baptists, it’s what we do sometimes…but it shouldn’t be. We rather should strive for those righteous behaviours described in the previous phrase. The picture Paul is painting here is a bunch of angry debaters at each other’s throats over issues. Sadly, I’ve sat through council meetings like that at times, and there are still a few individuals that would behave this way, thinking they are defending the right of the church member to speak their mind. I just think there is a better and less combative way to do this.
9: Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments,
- And after that verse Paul moves onto the women. This is another occasion for some historical context. Ephesus where Timothy was located was a major center for the goddess Artemis (or Diana for the Romans, same goddess). Artemis was the goddess of the moon and of the hunt. She was the matron of all archers (something I know a bit about personally), and a generally hardy and assertive figure. She was also the protector of fertility, something that will come up in a verse or two. (I got this information from Livius.org.)
- With that as a backdrop, let’s examine the text. Women were to adorn [kosmeo, to order; comes from kosmos, chaos, and has the connotation of bringing order from chaos as a result. It was viewed as a process, and Paul understood that some women had a process, something I have seen in some sisters who are friends over the years. My wife is allergic to makeup, but she still has a process, and I personally love the results.] themselves with proper [kosmios, orderly] clothing. What does that mean? Well, the context comes next.
- Modestly [aidos, a sense of shame, in the sense that she is ashamed to be ostentatious] and discreetly [sophrosune, with soundness of mind; that is not in the high fashion of the day]. An example of what women wore in those days in terms of cost – a denarius was a day’s wage. A really high-fashion dress would be in the neighbourhood of 7000 denarii. The text continues.
- Not with braided hair. There was a practice among very rich women to braid gold, pearls, or other accoutrements into their hair and to wear gold and jeweled jewelry to show off their wealthy status. You know – “If you got it, flaunt it!” That was the attitude. In fact, there was a practice among Artemisian adherents to dress in a sexually provocative manner. You know, equivalent to today’s fashion item of the undergarments worn on the outside on one’s clothing, or the legendary LBD – little black dress. This provocative dressing had one purpose – to attract men for the purposes of sex, something that was seen as life-affirming in the cult of Artemis (protector of fertility!). Such were the provocative practices in Ephesus.
- Ladies, I am not saying this to make anyone angry with me. I’m just explaining the historical background of the text as I’m going. So let’s move along to Paul’s meaning before the ladies here start to throw things at me.
10: but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.
- Paul is contrasting what behaviour the women should be displaying, just like he did with the men in verse 8. Instead of preparing oneself with all the expensive clothing and jewelry to attract a sexual partner, instead, women (like men in verse 8) are to prepare themselves with good works – the same kind of good works Paul has talked about in all his other letters, and he was fairly specific in those letters. Let the women do good works, just like the men, who were lifting up holy hands, or rather putting forward righteous deeds.
- After all, if a woman (or a man for that matter)is putting forth a claim of godliness, their lives should back that up. For it to be otherwise is to flirt with “taking the name of the Lord in vain,” which has components of vocabulary and behaviour.
11: A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.
- Here’s where the ladies start to get nervous in my experience, though Paul hasn’t actually said anything abusive or improper. The reason for this still has to do with the cult of Artemis. Artemis was a huntress, and a very aggressive character. This carried itself into Ephesian society in the behaviour of women. They all wanted not to be humble, or even equal, but instead to dominate. (Sounds like Women’s Liberation today. It’s a misnomer – these ladies would be okay if all men were held as prisoners, to hear them talk and read their blogs. They should be called Women’s Domination.) Instead, they were to show humility and submission in the church, according to Paul. And you can dislike what Paul said, but he still said it, and it’s still inspired Scripture.
- Here is where you can see the Complementarians and Egalitarians begin to part ways.
12: But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.
- Many people today take this as evidence that Paul was a misogynist, that is, he had a real problem with women. I don’t think that’s true, and Paul even kind of explains himself in the next verse.
- Complementarians take this as their key text to say no woman should ever hold an authority position in the church. Patriarchs would say they shouldn’t even get to speak. Egalitarians think this is context specific to Ephesus because of issues in the congregation because of the cult of Artemis. The Genderless crew want to cut out this verse altogether, or more likely, attack the inerrancy of Scripture so they don’t have to account for it in their liberal theology. But it is still there, and it must be dealt with! What is the exact issue?
- Paul will not allow a woman to TEACH [didasko, teach or instruct; and it says what it means and means what it says] or [oude, the Greek equivalent of “or” in this case – “or” is a conjunction meant to join words in this case, meaning both, not one or the other] exercise authority over [authenteo, to govern] a man [aner, male in gender], but to remain quiet [in the sense of be still]. Remember, I’m just reading the text. I am not interpreting it here.
- Complementarians will say that this simply settles the issue. And in anticipation of pushback, they will even attempt to overcome the passage in 1 Cor. 11:5 where it talks about how women when they prophesy [the modern equivalent of that is preaching] should have their head covered, which they explain as a cultural thing unique to Corinth, which is right across the bay from Delphi, place of that famed Oracle of Delphi and because of that false prophetess.
- Egalitarians will fire back and insist that if one can restrict head coverings to Corinth as a cultural thing, then one can restrict Paul’s letter to Timothy to Ephesus for the same reason, and the whole thing just becomes one big mess, of the kind that verse 8 tells us we are not to engage in.
- So where do I stand? I stand with Paul of course. <<insert wry grin here>>
13: For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.
- Paul is giving some reasoning here. Complementarians will take from here that this is the order in God’s creation, not in a sexist way, but only in the church, not in other spheres. Egalitarians will not dispute this, typically, because they disagree with the interpretation of the facts, not the facts themselves.
14: And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.
- This is not Paul saying that the fall was Eve’s fault by the way. Paul knew that Adam was the one that actually blew it, but it was Eve that was tricked, BECAUSE ADAM WAS NOT DOING HIS JOB!!!! I don’t think anyone disagrees on this point either.
15: But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.
Most Complementarians at this point think the conversation is done, but Egalitarians think that a literal interpretation of this is kind of absurd.
The word for “preserved” is the Greek sozo, the verb form of soteria, meaning “saved.” But is Paul really saying that childbirth is how a woman is saved? I don’t think that’s true. What I think Paul is saying is that men can’t (naturally) have babies to continue the human race. I think Paul is saying that if women will continue in faith [pistis] and love [agape] and sanctity [hagaismos, sanctification] with self-restraint [sophrosune, soundness of mind], then their specific female attribute of being able to bear children will allow them to uniquely keep up with the men in the church. I don’t think Paul meant that in a misogynist sense.
But that’s chapter two! Next week, chapter three!