Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy that women are to dress modestly, learn silently, and find salvation in childbearing shape Christian identities and activities, but are routinely misread and misapplied. To make sense and good use of the instructions, a reader must consider the design and provenance of Paul’s letter.
My journey towards egalitarianism began with a search for two things: practicality and consistency. I struggled to reconcile them in the biblical interpretation process, and often felt that one was at odds with the other, particularly in 1 Corinthians 14.
Lawyers investigate human behavior like scientists investigate the natural world, looking for the explanation that best fits all the available data. What happens when we apply that approach to 1 Corinthians 14:34–35?
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.
The church’s outreach to the world is enhanced when the gifts given to all God’s people, including laity, women and youth, are affirmed and utilized. Ministry needs to be based on gifting not gender, on witnessing not categories, on biblical teaching not status. When gifting is denied because of gender, status, or age, kingdom ministry is diminished.
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.
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.
The truth is, women have always been leaders and exemplars of the faith, and Scripture praises them for it. Let’s do all we can to make sure that one day, every Bible translation celebrates that reality.