Summary: Three approaches to this passage where Paul says women should be silent, along with the greatest strength and greatest weakness of each argument.
WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THAT?! On first reading, there’s plenty in these verses to raise eyebrows.
THREE APPROACHES TO THESE VERSES:
- These are not the only three possibilities, but I would argue that they are the three most prominent.
1. ARGUMENT #1: This Bible teaching is binding for all Christians in all eras.
- The idea is that you should take the plain and obvious meaning of the text as the binding instruction for all Christians throughout church history (including today).
- This would obviously mean that it would be something that would be binding for us today and that our church should be enforcing this belief.
- Priscilla and Aquila instructed, but privately (Acts 18:26).
- GREATEST STRENGTH: It is a simple and straightforward way to read the Bible.
- There is beauty in simplicity. In this case, you just take what the Scripture says and obey it. It may not be easy, but it’s not complicated.
- GREATEST WEAKNESS: If you’re going to argue that here, then it’s true for other difficult passages.
- In this passage, many conservative Christians like the idea that a woman should not the authority to teach and preach. They’ll proudly proclaim that they believe that in keeping with “clear teaching of Scripture.” But that same verse also says that women should keep silent in church. If you’re going to say that you’re just taking the words in a straightforward manner, then you have to take all of it in that manner. But there are a lot more preachers talking about women shouldn’t preach (an acceptable idea in many circles) than that women should be silent in church (an acceptable idea almost nowhere).
- Another example: in places like 1 Corinthians 16:20, the believers are told to greet each other with a holy kiss. Yet I don’t know of any churches that do that.
- Another example: in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, it clearly teaches that women should wear a head covering. (It also teaches that all women should have long hair.) Yet I don’t know of many churches where the women are wearing head coverings.
2. ARGUMENT #2: Some Bible teaching is only binding for the Christians of that era.
- This means it would have been binding for all Christians back in that day.
- Let me share a phrase that’s going to be important from here on out: “reading over their shoulder.” To use the book we’re in tonight as an example look with me at 1 Timothy 1:2. The words of this book of the Bible were written to Timothy from Paul. We are “reading over Timothy’s shoulder,” as it were, at a letter that was actually written to him.
- If Connie received a letter from Bill and was sitting here reading it, I could (hopefully with her permission) sit behind her and read that letter “over her shoulder.” The letter is addressed to her, but I’m reading it. As I’m reading it, there are things that I can learn from it, but the fact remains that I’m reading over someone else’s shoulder.
- The Bible is like that in that we are reading letters addressed to someone else. In this case, we are reading over Timothy’s shoulder.
- Now, I fully recognize that this is the way that God desired to give us His Word. I’m in no way denying that. This was the form He chose. But as we read, we do need to recognize the form of what we’re reading and the context that it was written in.
- Someone making this argument would note that 1 Timothy 2:12 begins “I do not permit. . ..” Rather than being binding teaching that’s eternal, perhaps this is a part of the letter that is Paul’s teaching for that day.
- Something similar to 1 Corinthians 7:10 and 12 where Paul specifically differentiates between what teaching is specifically from the Lord and what teaching is just his opinion.
- Another example is in Acts 15:1-29 where it was decided that normal Jewish custom would not be binding on the new Christian believers.
- A final thought on this front: Christ put women in a high place in his ministry, especially in light of the lack of respect they generally received. Matthew 28:9 is one passage that notes that women were the first to hear the news of the resurrection of Jesus.
- GREATEST STRENGTH: It provides a way to handle some peculiar and challenging passages.