Learning to thrive in the new life Jesus offers us – 2 Corinthians 5:16-17

1 Timothy 2:13: Another reason 1 Timothy 2:12 is not as clear as it seems

1 Timothy 2:13

In my previous post I argued that 1 Timothy 2:12 is not as straightforward as many believe it to be, and I looked at six factors that should be considered when trying to interpret this verse. How we understand the following verses, however, also influences how we interpret verse 12. In this post I look at 1 Timothy 2:13: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve.”

A Little Word with Big Implications

Verse 13 has been used by many to argue that the created order of Adam first, Eve second, is one reason why a woman cannot teach and lead a man. In this interpretation, the Greek word gar, typically translated into English as “for”, is understood as meaning “because”. (The preacher I mentioned in my previous post simply states that “for” means “because” in 1 Timothy 2:13.)

Gar is frequently used in the New Testament with a sense of “because”, but gar has many more senses. Gar is often used in the New Testament to introduce additional, background information. This information is often from the past, and sometimes from the Old Testament.

Here is a small sample of verses where gar is used to introduce this kind of additional information, rather than a reason.

In Matthew 3:2-3 gar occurs in verse 2 to give a reason why people should repent: “for (gar) the kingdom of heaven is near”. But in the following verse gar occurs again to introduce information from the Old Testament relevant to John: “For (gar) this is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke . . .” Here we have two uses of gar in consecutive verses. Note that most English translations leave gar in Matthew 3:3 untranslated.

In Acts 15 we read about the Jerusalem council. Immediately after James gives his judgement in Acts 15:19-20, he says, “For (gar) the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath” (Acts 15:21). Gar doesn’t introduce the reason for James’s judgement. Rather it tells us that he thinks his judgements would have been understood by the gentiles because the law of Moses has been preached in every city, etc. James is providing additional information in verse 21, not a reason for his statements in verses 19 and 20.

In 1 Corinthians 10:4 we are told by Paul that all Israel “drank the same spiritual drink”. He then gives more information: “For (gar) they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” Paul is not giving the reason why they drank—presumably the reason was that they were thirsty (Exod. 17:3). Rather, Paul is giving additional information about the event originally recorded in Exodus 17.

In John 4:43 it says that Jesus left for Galilee. Verse 44 then states: “Now (gar) Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country” (John 4:44 NIV). The NIV, ESV, NRSV, and NET translations put the information in verse 44 within parentheses. Furthermore, the NIV translates gar as “now”, while a few other translations, such as the NLT and HCSB, leave gar untranslated in verse 44.

How would it change our understanding of 1 Timothy 2:12 if verses 13-14 were put in parentheses? How would it change our understanding if the word “now” was used instead of “for”? Or if gar was left untranslated? A lot is riding on how we understand and translate the Greek word gar in verse 13.

I strongly suspect Paul did not mention the created order as a reason for his prohibition in 1 Timothy 2:12, but was giving additional information. (Time permitting, I hope to write a post on 1 Timothy 2:14 where I’ll explain what I think verses 13-14 address, but I’ve already had a go at explaining it here and here.)

Paul and the Created Order

Apart from Genesis 2, the created order is only mentioned in the Bible in two Pauline letters: First Corinthians and First Timothy. In 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 we find that Paul did not regard the created order, or the fact that the first woman came from first man, as important.

In a passage that is about origins and worship, Paul refers to the creation of man and woman in verses 8-9 where he writes: “For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man” (1 Cor. 11:8-9; cf. 1 Cor. 11:3). (Paul may be quoting the Corinthians here.)

1 Corinthians 11:2-16 is written as a chiasm, and the corresponding verses to 8-9 are 11-12: “Nevertheless (or, except that), in the Lord, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God” (1 Cor. 11:11-12).

Rather than placing an importance on the created order, Paul points out that even if the first woman’s source was the first man, every other man since has been born from a woman. According to Paul, who came first doesn’t matter because, ultimately, we all have God as our source. Moreover, we are mutually dependent on one another, regardless of our gender.

Paul nullifies any significance of the created order in the second part of the chiasm in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, particularly for us who are “in the Lord”. (More about this chiasm here.) Nevertheless, some maintain that the created order somehow disqualifies every woman from teaching and leading any man for all time.

The Biblical Record of Men who were Guided by Godly Women

Alluding to 1 Timothy 2:13-14, respected scholar Douglas Moo writes, “these restrictions [in verse 12] are permanent, authoritative for the church in all times and places and circumstances as long as men and women are descended from Adam and Eve.” (Source)

If the created order of Adam and Eve really does provide an impediment for a woman teaching and leading a man, then this impediment extends beyond the church because, presumably, everyone is “descended from Adam and Eve.” Yet the Bible, both Old and New Testaments give numerous examples of men who were guided by women for their betterment and the betterment of the community of God’s people.

These men include Abraham (Gen. 21:12); Barak (Judg. 4:4-6, 8); King David (1 Sam. 25:2-42); Joab (2 Sam. 20:14-22); King Lemuel (Prov. 31:1-9); King Josiah (2 Chron. 34:19-33, etc); Mordecai (Esth. 4:17 NIV); those who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:37-38); the men (and women) of Sychar (John 4:4-42); Jesus’ “brothers” (John 20:17-18); Apollos (Acts 18:26); etc. (More about these men, and the women who taught and led them, here.)

In all these examples, and others, there is no hint that the men were doing anything amiss by following the advice and direction of women. In fact there were good, even great, outcomes when they heeded the women’s words.

Furthermore, in the Bible we see that there was a respected place for prophetic woman among the Israelites and, later, the Jews. Female prophets were sought out and heeded by people including kings and army generals. These women taught oracles and doctrine, and made important decisions. In the early church there was also a respected place for female prophets. But in many churches today women are denied a voice, except perhaps in back rooms were only women and children are present.

What kind of great outcomes is the church, and the world, missing out on because godly women are being denied the opportunity to teach and lead both men and women?

And what is it about the created order, precisely, that supposedly disqualifies a woman from teaching and leading a man?


Related Articles

The Chiasm in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16
The Complementarian Concept of the Created Order
1 Timothy 2:12, the created order, and Bible men who were guided by godly women
Bible Women with Spiritual Authority
Many women leaders in the Bible had this one thing in common
Prominent Biblical Scholars on Women in Ministry
Adam and Eve in Ancient Gnostic Literature (cf. 1 Tim 2:13-14)

Posted August 6th, 2016 . Categories/Tags: Equality and Gender Issues, The "Difficult" Passages, , ,

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19 comments on “1 Timothy 2:13: Another reason 1 Timothy 2:12 is not as clear as it seems

  1. Jeff says:

    Interesting take on the possible translation of ‘gar’ in these verses. Will have to give some further study to that.

    In my view, even if Paul is saying, “for (because) Adam was created first, then Eve” as a reason for what he says prior, that still does not imply a universal prohibition as Moo and others think. As you note, it did not prevent women prophetesses teaching men (e.g., Huldah). It did not prevent Deborah from instructing Israel. It did not prevent women being witnesses to the resurrection and passing on Jesus’ instructions to the disciples (which is essentially what teaching/preaching in a church setting should be doing).

    It seems to me a strong case can be made that in v.13 Paul is using the Adam/Eve situation as a reason mitigate against, and humble, women who were seeking a more domineering role over men at Ephesus (and the corresponding authentien which may best be translated ‘domineer’). As I. Howard Marshall put it in his commentary on 1 Tim. 2, “The ‘order of creation’ is a reply to some specific aspect of the false teaching which has influenced women to behave in the church meeting in a way that threatens the dignity of men.” This is a classic move by Paul. He is constantly seeking to humble his church audiences so as to prevent hierarchical thinking of any kind (m/f; Jew/Gentile; Rich/Poor; etc.).

    Bruce Winter offers this observation in Roman Wives, Roman Widows, “… certain married women had a … desire to dominate in the Forum and the courts. Was there a concern that a comparable attitude might creep into the Christian community with the desire to use power to control, this time in the context of public instruction?”

    So, Paul may simply be – I think is – using the creation argument as a means of reigning in women/wives, influenced by the culture of ‘new women’ seeking to domineer their husbands or the assembly itself, who also were perhaps caught up in the Artemis cult at Ephesus. As if to say, “Time out, don’t think you have permission to dominate men in this instruction – for Adam was created first, and the woman was deceived” – but that would not preclude humble, non-authoritarian instruction (and such non-authoritarian instruction would apply to men as well – as it is the cruciform way of Paul for everyone). Paul regularly employs scriptural or nature based arguments even when he is (as I strongly suspect is the case in 1 Tim 2) offering an ad hoc ‘fix’ to mitigate against some practice that would otherwise undermine the gospel.

    Thanks for your writings. Peace.

    • Marg says:

      Hi Jeff,

      I agree with I. Howard Marshall, at least in part, that 1 Timothy 2:13-14, and even verse 15, were written to address specific aspects of the heresy in Ephesus. Certain verses in 1 Timothy also reveal that the wealthy Christians were causing problems in the Ephesian church. My guess is that all the problems addressed in 1 Timothy 2:8-15 were caused by high status, rich members of the church who needed a dose of humility and “reigning in”, as you say.

  2. Cassandra Wright says:

    Considering how often God passed by the first born and choose a younger child to do His work, I could never see how anyone would make a hard and fast rule out of the creation order in I Tim.

    I also could never understand that if it was wrong for a woman to teach because Eve had been deceived by the father of lies, why was it OK for a man to teach, when Adam willingly made the choice to sin “with his eyes wide open.”

    But then, I am just a “foolish, easily deceived woman” and do not have the ability to understand such things. Or so I have been told when I have asked comps to explain it to me.

    • Marg says:

      We are all children of Eve. All of us, men and women, are stupid and gullible in varying degrees, and most of this has nothing to do with Eve who is so remote from us.

      As I wrote somewhere else: “In Jesus’ kingdom the humble are exalted, the lowly are the greatest, the last are first, and the first are last. We still haven’t grasped and applied these basic kingdom principles; and we corrupt these principles when we try and make primacy and hierarchy a part of relationships in Christian communities.”

      Sometimes we Christians really are thick and slow. Why can’t we see that equality and mutuality is what Jesus taught and demonstrated. It is a very great shame and outright tragedy that Christians are ignoring the big picture of the kingdom and are being tripped up on 1 Timothy 2:12 which was written about a specific and local situation.

      • Cassandra Wright says:

        I have often challenged men about why do they isolate the Scripture about what women should do and give them more weight that things about men. How many churches restrict women “gar” I Tim 2, but won’t allow men to “lift holy hands in prayer?”

        But then people falsely pride themselves in being inconsistent, don’t they.

        • Marg says:

          And I have never heard a sermon where women were told not to braid their hair and to stop wearing pearls, gold, and expensive clothes (1 Tim 2:9).

  3. Fr. Erik Weaver says:

    I wouldn’t worry too much about the pastorial letters (1, 2 Tim. and Titus). Almost no modern scholar believe these were written by Paul. In fact, they date much later. We see this in that there exists the presumption of an established church with an internal structure to govern the church; a condition which Paul predates by many decades. The authentic Paul wrote in the 50’s and is our earliest writings after the crucifixion, beginning about 20 years after the death of Jesus.

    So read these letters with a generous bit of salt 😉 These non-authentic Pauline letters are often best understood as attempts to modify and rein in Paul’s radical positions. One such radical position was the proposition that we are all equal – slaves, women, etc: that was Paul’s position.

    Context must always be considered: who wrote, when, in what circumstance (personal and social), to whom, and for what reason?

    • Marg says:

      Hi Erik, There are lots of scholars who, for very good reasons, do not believe the Pastorals were written by Paul. On the other hand there are many scholars today that see Paul as their author. Whatever the case, these letters have been included in the canon of Holy Scripture, and there’s lots of great stuff in them.

      The contents of these letters indicate that they were written late in the first century, after, tradition says, Paul was executed. (Some scholars even place these letters in the early second century.) Occasionally I wonder if we’ve got the date for Paul’s death wrong. The details of his death are very sketchy. Furthermore, quite a few early Christian writers indicate that Paul went to Spain, which would be hard to fit in with the current understanding of Paul’s ministry timeline. What if Paul died in the 80s instead of during Nero’s reign? (More about Paul and Spain here.)

      Anyway, this is all conjecture. I’m happy to consider the Pastorals as Holy Scripture.

  4. Ray Huberts says:

    I run a cattle ranch in mountainous eastern Tennessee. It’s quiet but never lonely. Nature is all around you here – and it doesn’t take long to figure out that everything God made is good. I won’t even kill a rattle snake. They are in the food chain and do their job nicely. Some people don’t like children; others don’t like the obese; and some don’t like women – period. But who runs things? Father. And He loves children and He loves women and he made everything good and decent. Now I have over 20 bibles and I’m into the Word double digit hours a day – but I always approach things from a simple point of view. Why in the world would anyone wish to see either gender as anything but a gorgeous creation from God? In the living and breathing Body of Jesus Christ, each of the brothers and sisters is an integral and vital “cell” – and we all need to function “pedal to the metal” to beat back the horrible sin and immorality that grips society – notice that the first thing the devil always does to ruin us all is degrade women, then the family, then our institutions. Women are the linchpin to holiness – once they go south – we’re toast. Men and even children then fall like dominoes. We need our women for holiness; for strength and guidance in tough times. And for the clean and clear thinking they always provide as all of us journey down our paths to Father and salvation. Bossy women? Bossy men? Bossy kids? Heck, I’ve got bossy cows! Meekness and humility and love will solve all that “bossy” stuff. We are all in this together – and we need our wonderful women as equals to the best that men have to offer. Have you noticed that 1 + 1 = 2. But when you put a good man and a good woman together ….you get 1 + 1 = 5. Five for grace – and it comes from the deep integrity and love within ALL of us. Heck, I’m so old, I even learn things from little kids! Praise the Lord.

    • Marg says:

      Hi Ray, Thanks for your very interesting perspective on things. I don’t get a lot of comments like this one. 🙂

      There’s lots here that I agree with. Meekness, humility and love are excellent virtues which can ease and solve many problems. And I don’t know anyone personally who has a negative view of sex (gender) differences.

      I’m thankful that the Father is one running things in my world. I’m also thankful for the people he has put around me, both men and women. We all need each other and our unique gifts, abilities and temperaments.

  5. J. Christine Leach says:

    Whenever I see the created order thing brought up I keep thinking about all of those non first born sons in the old testament, and how they were chosen by God to do great things while their elder brothers were skipped over because they were unfit for the job God required, and/or because God wanted to show his power through those considered weaker.

    Like, the list of these people is big enough to throw at someone and do them some injury. I feel as though women are also like these non first born sons, and should not be ignored when God gives them spiritual gift and their calling, especially now when women are considered in Christ to be the same as a first born son.

    • Cassandra Wright says:

      Just had to say AMEN!

    • Marg says:

      Yes, with the exception of Jesus being first in a few things, being first means nothing whatsoever in God’s ideal for society.

      • Cassandra Wright says:

        Many years ago I wrote a piece about being a little sister. It always seemed that my older brother had the best of everything. I got his hand me downs. He got his way more that I did. He got paid more for doing the same jobs I did. I was constantly compared to him and came up short. The things that I did do better than he did, and there were a lot of those things, were discounted. I was not like my brother and still am not! To the day my mother died when we were in our late 50s, my mother simply could not deal with the idea that we were not the same, or that we had different ways or doing things, or that there were somethings that I was just plain better at. Mum referred to me as “torture, torment and aggravation.” Really! I was always the source of trouble, blamed for things, held responsible when anything went wrong, even to the point of being made to feel it was my fault that my dad had a heart attack. Needless to say, this was NOT good for me!! My dad ruled the family like a tyrant and changed his mind as he wanted, usually to apply some restriction to me but not to my brother.

        We were not Christians, but I met Jesus when I was 14. Wow, I was part of a big family where I was loved, wasn’t a little sister……. HA! What a jolt when I found out that as a woman, I would only ever be second best again. I would get the left overs, the hand me downs, all the things that the men were done with or didn’t want. I would not be allowed to do the things that the big boys did, and if I did, I would get no credit and little help. If I could do something better, it wouldn’t matter.

        I was so depressed. Then I learned that the second born was so often God’s top pick. He didn’t seem to care about birth order, but about attitudes or abilities, and even better, He cared about what He could do with someone with bad attitudes and bad abilities!

        It is even harder for me to put up with churches where I was a “little sister” than it was for me to deal with my family. At least my parents were honest, where churches still hide behind the “equal but different” excuse. I am grateful to my Heavenly Father and my Savior for the truth of equality.

        • Marg says:

          Hi Cassandra,

          I’m so sorry for your childhood. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be thought of that way. And how sad that many women like yourself were, and are, getting the leftovers because the men are getting privileged treatment.

          It’s almost a pattern that God looks over the firstborn and chooses the second born, or even a son further down the line (e.g. David and Joseph), to be a leader. Being first means nothing.

          • Cassandra Wright says:

            Eh, it makes good object lessons now! The parallel between how I grew up and the attitudes I found in churches has always mystified me. Somehow, I thought of churches as places where people were nice to each other, helped them, were glad to get each other’s help, etc. When someone tells me that church is a “family,” I always think what a dysfunctional family it is. Aynt supposed to be that way!

      • Steve says:

        Jesus has the first place (preeminence) in everything and was the firstborn (speaking of his resurrection) of all creation (Colossians 1).

        But, he was the last Adam and the second man (1 Corinthians 15). So, we Jesus as the second man preferred over Adam as the first man.

        I believe this is why the Bible is full of things like the younger will rule over the elder and the second (or later) son repeatedly being chosen over the first son

  6. […] A lot is riding on how we understand the Greek word gar, which is translated as “for” in most English translations of 1 Timothy 2:13. This small Greek word occurs over one thousand times in the New Testament and is used in a variety of ways. It is often used to give the reason for a preceding statement or command, and this is how many have understood it in verse 13. But gar can also be used to introduce extra information related to the preceding statement, though sometimes it is not immediately apparent how this extra information relates to the preceding verse. (More on gar and 1 Timothy 2:13 here.) […]

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