Saturday, March 17, 2007

1 Timothy 2:8-10

All right, I’ve gathered my courage and am ready to delve into a couple of passages where I hold unorthodox views. If you’d rather not have any preconceived notions challenged, please don’t continue reading. These are the kind of posts that inspire the local villagers to gather around my castle with torches and pitchforks, ready to slay the monster…

Let me begin with some disclaimers:

  • No, I’m not promoting anything. Too many people want to start with the conclusions and work backwards. I’m trying to deal with the text. Only when we have fully dealt with the text can we work on the application. Too many people let what they want to find dictate what their study will reveal.

  • I’m presenting hypotheses. If the orthodox conclusion is correct, I will be thrilled to return to that view. Help me get back to it, if that’s what I need to do.

So, what better passage to get into trouble with than a passage about gender roles in the church? Or, should I say, a passage that we’ve made to be about gender roles in the church. Let’s look at 1 Timothy 2:8-10:

“I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.” (ESV)

Many people feel that Paul, in this passage is telling us who can pray in public and who can’t. My belief is that he’s talking about what and not who. Here’s why:

  1. What if this passage said, “I desire that in every place men go to church instead of going to the theater on Sunday”? Would we then argue that only men can go to church? Paul is telling the men to stop quarreling and start praying. His command that men should pray doesn’t preclude women from praying as well. Look at Titus 2:2-3; we logically understand that the older women are to have the same traits as the older men. Interestingly enough, the grammatical construction between these two passages seems to be similar. The connecting word between the instructions for the two sexes, “likewise” or “in like manner,” is used both in 1 Timothy 2 and in Titus 2.

  2. I think that most of our translations have allowed their views toward this passage to override their grammatical understanding. To help you see what I mean, let me quote from Young’s Literal Translation. Young seeks to reflect the grammar as closely as he can, and he translates this passage as follows: “I wish, therefore, that men pray in every place, lifting up kind hands, apart from anger and reasoning; in like manner also the women, in becoming apparel, with modesty and sobriety to adorn themselves, not in braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or garments of great price, but — which becometh women professing godly piety — through good works.” There is no verb in verse 9, only a participle. It seems that Paul is saying that the men should pray without quarreling and the women should pray in becoming apparel. A. T. Robertson admits that this is what the grammar could say, but he doesn’t think it fits with verses 11-15. I say that’s not translation, that’s interpretation. Besides, Paul talks about women praying in public in 1 Corinthians 11; why can’t he do it here as well?

I think that in 1 Timothy 2:8 Paul tells men how they should pray and in 1 Timothy 2:9 he tells women how they should pray. No, I’m not advocating women preachers, women elders, nor any outings on slippery slopes. I’m trying to figure out the meaning of this passage in 1 Timothy 2. Help me out with your comments. Save the pitchforks and torches for later.


lisa leichner said...

I hope no one brings any pitchforks and torches to your castle either. :)

When I was in high school, our youth group often had chain prayers, and the girls also were encouraged to pray. At some point I decided (because of what I'd heard) that I shouldn't pray in front of the boys, and that was that! I was very interested to read your dissection of that particular verse. I do think this is one of many areas that a lot of us are too scared to touch! I'm definitely open to learning, though. Thanks for your thoughts. I will be chewing on this for a while, I think. :)

With an open mind, Lisa

Tim Archer said...

Congrats on the open mind. Mine seems to be on one of those things they put on screen doors. It keeps closing unless I force it open!

Have a great Sunday!

Grace and peace,

lisa leichner said...

HA! Maybe I should have said, "Trying to keep an open mind." We all have a hard time seeing things in a different way than we grew up seeing them.