Patriarchy in 1 Timothy 2

Women should learn quietly and submissively. I don’t let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly. For God made Adam first, and afterward he made Eve. And it wasn’t Adam who was deceived by Satan. The woman was deceived, and sin was the result. But women will be saved through childbearing, assuming they continue to live in faith, love, holiness, and modesty.

Regarding this passage, a friend wrote (edited for content and length):

Here is my problem with this scripture passage. 1) The word Christian means “little Christ” which vests authority just by Christ’s presence in your heart and life. 2) A preacher is not an authority figure. A preacher, just like a deacon, is a servant. A servant to God, a servant to his flock, and a servant to his community. A servant. Servitude does not imply authority. God is the authority. I believe if God calls a woman to serve, it’s his call how he wants her to serve. The modern church trying to place ministers as some type of authority, I believe, is not acknowledging the true role of servitude. The reason a minister is often supported by tithes is not because he’s a power head, it’s because his time is truly spent serving God by serving the church and community. He serves and guides the church, the body of Christ, in teaching them to serve. It’s because of his role as a servant that should make sure he’s cared for.

There was a link to an blog post written by “Tina” who felt called to preach, even as a young girl. When she asked her local pastor about it, he told her he didn’t think that would be a problem. Then, Tina showed him the above passage. Her pastor was taken aback but responded, “Just don’t worry about that passage.” She relates this story to the idea there’s a “widespread ignorance of the Bible.” Tina goes on to state:

I wanted to preach. But more than that, I wanted to do God’s will. Even as a pre-teen, I could clearly see that there was a pattern for the church, and that men were to be in the lead. At that time, I had no idea why that was. The “pastor” obviously didn’t, either.

Tina states that the senior pastor explained the passage identified a cultural issue and shouldn’t be seen as a universal truth. “Are we to summarily dismiss plain Bible teaching because it doesn’t fit our own cultural norm,” she questions. Tina counters that the argument from 1 Timothy isn’t cultural at all. The “pattern for the church,” she claims, goes all the way back to creation, “For God made Adam first, and afterward he made Eve.”

My friend’s response is really about the blog post and Tina’s interpretation of 1 Timothy 2.11ff and not the passage itself. With that stated, though, I want to take a few moments here and give my thoughts about 1 Timothy 2 and patriarchy.

For me, one of the biggest problems of the institutional church (other than the fact that there even is an institutional church) is the complete misunderstanding of the cross and resurrection of Jesus, and the meaning of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE.

Before we get there, though, we have to go back to the beginning. The problem I have with Tina’s view (and, quite honestly, the view that’s taught and believed by most of the Western church) is she doesn’t go back far enough. There are two different creation stories in Genesis and there’s been debate about how to understand those. But, we’re not addressing that here. Using Tina’s belief that we shouldn’t “dismiss plain Bible teaching,” we’ll note that Genesis 1 states that God created humanity together:

Then God said, “Let’s make humanity in our image to resemble us so that they may take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and all the crawling things on earth.”

God created humanity in God’s own image, in the divine image God created them, male and female God created them (1.26-27; adapted).

Notice God’s intention here—humanity, that is, both men and women, were made in God’s image, to be like God. Both men and women would be responsible for creation. The man wasn’t given the “superior” role and the woman wasn’t given the “subordinate” role. The “plain Bible teaching” is that men and women were created as equals. Their roles and responsibilities were the same.

The next verses bare this out and not only that, but tell us what God thought of the entire creation (1.28ff; emphasis added):

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and master it. Take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, and everything crawling on the ground.” Then God said, “I now give to you (plural) all the plants on the earth that yield seeds and all the trees whose fruit produces its seeds within it. These will be your food. To all wildlife, to all the birds in the sky, and to everything crawling on the ground—to everything that breathes—I give all the green grasses for food.” And that’s what happened. God saw everything he had made: it was supremely good.

Not only was humanity created as equals—each were given the same roles and responsibilities—but God stated that everything was “supremely good.” This is the original intention of creation—God’s “perfect plan,” if you will—all people are equal.

However, things go south. In Genesis 3, the consequences for not obeying God seems to be a patriarchal structure. Speaking to Eve, God said, “You’ll desire to control your husband, but he’ll rule over you” (verse 16; NLT). And since then, that’s the way it’s been. Even in Jesus’ day, women weren’t seen as equals but as property.

But that’s not the end of the story.

During Jesus ministry, he was all about elevating women. There are a couple of examples of this—Mary sitting at his feet learning as a disciple (which was something only men were allowed to do) and Mary of Magdala being the first apostle. Since we know the story of Mary learning at Jesus’ feet, I want to explain how Mary of Magdala is the first apostle.

It seems that the qualifications to be an apostle are to have seen Jesus after his resurrection and be sent by him to tell others (see 1 Corinthians 9). The Greek word for “apostle” is ἀπόστολος (apostolos) and it means “a sending, expedition; office, or duty of one sent as a messenger or agent; office of an apostle, apostleship” (Mounce). And that’s exactly what we see with Mary of Magdala.

In John 20, Mary’s alone at the tomb and crying. She supposes that someone’s taken Jesus’ body since the tomb is empty. When she starts to leave, Mary encounters Jesus but she didn’t recognize him; she thought he was the gardener (an important point we’ll come to in a minute). After a brief conversation, Mary turns to leave. Jesus calls out to her, “Mary!” Recognizing Jesus, Mary whirls around and rushes to him, “Rabboni!” Jesus tells her not to cling to him, “But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary finds them and tells them, “I have seen the Lord!” It’s because of this that Mary of Magdala is known as the Apostle to the Apostles!

And that’s significant because the very first person who saw Jesus after his resurrection was a woman. If this had been a made up story (as many think), it would’ve been one of the men, perhaps Peter or John, who was the first witness. But it wasn’t. It was a women. Mary of Magdala—the First Apostle.

Next, contrary to what people think, the New Testament mentions many women in ministry. From Priscilla a teacher and co-worker of Paul (Acts 18, Romans 16) to Phoebe the deacon (Romans 16) to Junia, who, depending on how one translates ἐπίσημος, was either “prominent among the apostles” or an apostle herself (Romans 16.17), the message of the New Testament is one of reconciliation and restoration, of rescuing and restoring creation.

In Galatians, Paul wrote, “Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree’” (3.13; emphasis added).

Not only have we been rescued from the curse that included patriarchy, but our relationship with God has been restored as well. We see this in Paul’s letter to the followers of Jesus in Rome, “Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone” (5.18).

And to the followers of Jesus in Corinth, Paul wrote, “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5.19).

Finally, Paul was very keen about the different roles and statuses of people in Roman society. And yet, in his letter to the followers of The Way of Jesus in Galatia, he wrote,

For you’re all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who’ve been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There’s no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you’re all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you’re the true children of Abraham. You’re his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you (3.26ff; emphasis added).

And in Colossians 3, Paul wrote, “In this image (i.e., the image of new humanity being renewed in Christ) there’s neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all things and in all people” (verse 11).

The reason Paul could say all of this is because of Jesus’ emphasis on ushering in God’s Realm during his ministry. Mark 1 records Jesus as saying, “The time promised by God has come at last! The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” (verse 15).

The point I’ve been making is that the patriarchy, the hierarchy portrayed in society and the Bible, even the New Testament, was part of the brokenness of creation. This is why the cross and resurrection are so important. Because of Jesus—the birthing of God’s Realm (the New Creation) during his ministry, its inauguration at the resurrection (this is way John said Mary thought Jesus was the gardener), and its full establishment at the fall of Jerusalem—the curses of the garden have been removed. In the ultimate sense, humanity (and by extension, creation) has already been set free and made equals. The curse of subordination of women has been removed!

Therefore, I agree with Tina’s pastor. The passage from 1 Timothy indicates a cultural issue; it doesn’t address a “universal truth.” The “universal truth” is that women and men are now equals—the original intention has been restored by Christ. Of course, this needs to be worked out in creation. And if we’re not about restoring the equality of women throughout the world then, in reality, we’re working against what God has done through Christ.

In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

Unless otherwise noted, the scripture quotations in this post are taken from The Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.


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