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Welcome to CBE’s Library

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Context matters. I heard it all the time in seminary. It’s no small thing to translate biblical passages from Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek into English. This requires getting into the minds of the biblical authors to figure out what they intended to say to specific people in certain situations at a specific time in history. Academics call the science of interpretation hermeneutics. The goal is to know what God is saying about faith and practice in a certain context.

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What do we need to know about the Ephesians to better understand Paul's meaning in 1 Timothy 2:11? First, we need to know that the letter was written to address the influence of false teachers and second, we must understand the cultural background of the Ephesians.

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What if Paul is saying something contextual, specific to a time and place and circumstance, relevant to the culture that he is speaking to? 1 Timothy is a letter from Paul to Timothy, a church leader in Ephesus. Paul is writing to Timothy telling him how to handle false teachers—teachers who are misrepresenting the gospel.

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When the curtain on male headship is pulled back, it shrinks from the light of logic and truth. Consider the most recent defense of male headship by John Piper. He offers three reasons why he believes it will endure, but in pulling the curtain back, we find each deeply flawed.

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Paul is concerned with gender in 1 Timothy because the women at Ephesus were individuals whose leadership did not demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit. Paul is objecting not to their gender, but to their leadership that domineered over men. We understand this because of the unique verb Paul selects for “authority” (1 Tim 2:12).

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To read Priscilla’s story through a lens of male-only leadership diminished her calling and also Paul’s. It also obstructs, demeans, and even abuses God’s welcome to women leaders and their male allies then and now!

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To gain balance and perspective in understanding 1 Timothy 2:11-15, we lean back and consider how other writers from the first century used authentein. The answer is very helpful.

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Rather than using the most common Greek terms for authority or oversight, like exuosia or proistemo, Paul uses the term authentein—a term that would have caught the attention of first century readers! Why? What does this word mean?

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To understand 1 Timothy 2, we need to overcome our blindness to women. We need to see Priscilla, a wise and strong leader and teacher; Artemis, the goddess whose female-centered religion would have normalized female religious dominance; the unqualified women usurping authority and spreading false teachings; and those being deceived by those teachings.

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