While it is now generally agreed that 1 Tim 2:8–15 is directed against the heresy that had taken hold within the Ephesian church, the key question is whether the passage is directed against the content of the heresy or is concerned to establish a process that will eventually see the victims corrected and the heresy expunged. If concerned with the content of the heresy, the instructions may be directed at restoring a hierarchical framework. If the passage is concerned with process, however, Paul’s demands are shaped by the particular nature of the heresy and its form of transmission in Ephesus.
All Scripture is by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). Let us therefore seek the positive message in 1 Timothy 2:9-10 which God has for the believer — a message which both traditionalists and egalitarians have too long ignored.
For today’s “traditionalists,” 1 Timothy 2 mandates the subordination of women to men in the church because the headship/submission principle is grounded in the created order, an order that Christianity redeems, but does not alter. Today’s traditionalists/male hierarchists also claim to be upholding the historic interpretation of this passage. New research on early Protestant beliefs concerning natural law and the spiritual and civil kingdoms, however, brings their claim into serious question.
In a society where men still hold most of the social power and where the average husband possesses more physical power than the average wife, we desperately need models of manhood that stress responsibility rather than exploitation, service rather than abuse of power.
In every corner of the world, religious teachings on gender and power have an enormous impact on human lives, especially those of girls and women. For this reason, Christians have a responsibility to accurately critique biblical teachings on gender.
As the role of men in families is debated in America, since 1991 the rapidly expanding evangelical (Promise Keepers) men’s movement has sponsored conferences filling major sports stadiums. Christian bookstores are creating new “men’s" sections for the many new books on masculinity being produced by most of the conservative Protestant publishing houses. A survey of these books shows that the books do not display a monolithic “return to traditionalism" approach to the changing issues of gender and family relationships.
The battle over women leaders and the church continues to rage unabated in evangelical circles. At the center of the tempest sits 1 Tim. 2:11-15. Despite a broad spectrum of biblical and extra-biblical texts that highlight female leaders, 1 Tim. 2:11-15 continues to be perceived and treated as the great divide in the debate. Indeed for some, how one interprets this passage has become a litmus test for the label “evangelical” and even for salvation.