Rescuing 1 Timothy 2 from the Misogynists Part 3: The Surprising Equality of Teaching Authority for All Women with All Men Who Are Not Rabbis

Giant offset text will allow you to scroll to the main points in this last post of the series. In Part 1, we identified the writer and audience. In Part 2, we continued answering what, where, why, and when questions in our skim of 1 Timothy. We found the letter addresses issues of leadership in a Jewish synagogue, and that it was written by a first-century Jewish rabbi to a first-century Jewish rabbi and the congregation in Ephesus.

In Part 3, the first section answers how the text is structured. Scroll to Step 2 for the close reading of the 1 Timothy 2 passage about women learning in silence, not teaching, and being saved through childbearing. Though the letter may have nothing to tell us about women in Christian churches and hierarchies, it may have relevance for those of us who have had enough of unauthorized teachers using the Bible to harm women.

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Rescuing 1 Timothy 2 from the Misogynists Part 2: What Is This Letter About? Synagogue Administration

In Part 1, we asked, “Who Wrote This to Whom?” to identify the author and intended audience for our text, 1 Timothy, and found our answers in the first two verses. It claims to be from the Apostle Paul to his disciple Timothy along with Timothy’s congregation at Ephesus.

I sketched a few relevant details about these characters, details the New Testament preserves for us, like notes about Paul and Timothy as circumcised Jewish men within Pharisaical Judaism who demonstrate full submission to James (a believer in his brother’s Messianic claims) for apostolic doctrine and the Sanhedrin for matters pertaining to Jewish law and practice.

Since we began this quest to see what I Timothy 2 says about women in Christian churches and careers, a matter of spiritual authority with significant practical consequences, I used the word authority eleven times in Part 1. If we had a different reading goal, I would have taken notes relevant to that other goal. As I mentioned, your answers may vary as you consult your working knowledge of related texts, history, your own faith traditions, and scholarship you deem credible.

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Rescuing 1 Timothy 2 from the Misogynists Part 1: Who Wrote This to Whom? Reading the Mail of First-century Jewish Rabbis

Women bring me 1 Tim 2’s “learn in silence” and “I suffer not a woman to teach” as they wrestle with their career decisions and consider offers of ministry positions. They want to honor God, and hasn’t God said that women need to “be silent” in Christian churches and refrain from positions in any hierarchies that place them above “any man”?

No.

But I want you to have a process to use to answer questions like these for yourself when the Bible gets used against you as a “misogynistic tool by misogynistic tools,” as a friend put it, or when you encounter passages you hope to apply to your life in a God-honoring way.

Come and learn, or send this to a woman who can use it. Bad ideas taught by unauthorized teachers hurt people, turn them away from their callings, break their hearts, and shipwreck their faith in the goodness of God.

Ironic and tragic that I Timothy exists to stop the harm being done by unauthorized men teaching their own bad ideas to believers in Ephesus. I think it is safe to say, two thousand years later–as a Reddit user posted a banner of what the Bible says women “should be” and another followed with a question thread, “Do you agree women should be silent?”–we have up to this point failed to follow the advice in the letter to refuse to learn the Bible from dangerously ignorant men.

Continue reading “Rescuing 1 Timothy 2 from the Misogynists Part 1: Who Wrote This to Whom? Reading the Mail of First-century Jewish Rabbis”

“What’s the One Thing All Women Want? Everything”: False. Nothing Draws a Woman Except Attention to the Safety of Her Body

Individuals with their delightful variations are not my focus in this post exploring the differences between how men and women in general value attention and experience loyalty.

“What is the one thing that all women want? Everything” was a comment on an Orthosphere post, “Women and Evolution.” It struck me as a succinct encapsulation of the frustration men have in feeling nothing they do could ever be enough: men give their lives and lay them down protecting women; women, the conversation suggests, fail to express such loyalty to men in return, an observation I would explain as a difference in values, not a virtue fail in women. Like the conclusions drawn about the lack of masculine loyalty in women, the comment about women wanting everything contains two faulty assumptions from the misapplication of a masculine frame of reference to a woman’s behavior. Women had not contradicted his punch line, “Everything.” But it’s the wrong answer because it’s the wrong question. A woman does not want a man to add to her. She wants him not to subtract from her.

The one thing all women want is to avoid life-reducing harm from a man. What he will refrain from doing matters more to a woman than anything he could ever do, and he cannot restrain himself from harming her if he will not pay attention to her subjective experience of his actions.

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Reading and Rereading the Bible for Intimacy: Finding God’s Desire When We Set Ours on Him

“Haven’t you read that book before?” someone once teased me. He wasn’t asking for a defense of devotional reading, and what could I have said, something about how the word of God lights up in different ways every time? But we ourselves come as different people every time we return to the same text, hence the re-readability of classic literature: we change and find our new selves anticipated and welcomed into the creation of an author generous and far-sighted enough to accommodate many versions of us.

I could have said the spirit of God promises to dwell in and with the word of God, so I enter and re-enter the pages for the sake of encountering God, but that creeps people out as dangerous mysticism. 

Fine: I don’t have a universally compelling answer. I can live with that. Instead, here’s a sustained meditation on the theme of devotional reading as intimacy with some extrapolations for marriage and for singles suffering with desire.

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When Lighting Up the Dark Takes One Act or Everything

In the exile, darkness conceals godliness. Flick a lighter to celebrate Hanukkah without candles, and the flame appears and then disappears. It doesn’t last the required half hour, and it doesn’t count.

Few things demoralize a person more than doing things that make no difference.

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God’s Kindnesses: He Is My Husband

“Do you have a theologically balanced view of God?” a study guide for Gentle and Lowly asks. How would you answer that?

How important is theology to your relationship with God? How highly do you value “balance,” and how do you define it? What does a “view of God” mean? And to what extent does what you “have” related to those issues matter in how you interact with God?

It struck me as a strange and funny question. Do I have a balanced view of anyone? Probably not. The question calls us to consider the extent to which our view of God lines up with what we or others believe to be rational and scripture-supported propositions God has disclosed to us, then? That’s fine, but I’m not evaluating an idea. I’m tumbling through experiences with a person in different roles, knowing him in events in time.

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Active Compassion or Active Contempt? A Theory of Male Sexuality That Can Save Your Life

“What do men think of intercourse?” is by far the strangest question I have ever been asked by a young woman. I felt both honored and offended that someone thought I could answer that. And yet, a year later, I do have a theory that explains the confusing, contradictory messages we hear from men who talk about sexuality.

This theory also explains why I believe men might objectify scantily clad women out of compassion, as I wrote about in an earlier post–or contempt, as I mentioned in the last one.

Let me explain what we can learn about male sexuality from divine masculinity in Genesis.

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