This post is the third one of a simulated interview with the Apostle Paul taken from the position of what he might say if we could transport Paul from the New Testament account through a time tunnel into our present day. Doug, a strong complementarian has been given the opportunity to ask Paul about tough passages of scripture that Doug thought were clear to him. In his dialog with Paul, Doug is troubled by the implications of what he has been hearing and in this third interview Doug has decided to push Paul on the issue of the universality of “woman” in 1 Timothy 2:11-12.
Paul: Did you have a good sleep and did you have time to think about what we have been discussing?
Doug: I didn’t sleep well last night, but I have been thinking about the concept of two or three witnesses needed to establish a matter. Yet somehow I can’t get beyond the universality of 1 Timothy 2:12. Didn’t you say that women are not allowed to teach men?
Paul: Brother Doug the lesson you need to learn today is that you must consider the whole.
Paul: What I mean is that I wrote some hard passages of scripture that cannot be understood piecemeal. The passages must be considered in whole and not in parts ripped from the context. Otherwise my intended meaning falls to the ground. Let’s look at the full passage of 1 Timothy 2:11-15. After verse 11 what do you notice about the beginning of each verse?
Doug: Verse 12 starts with “but”, verse 13 with “for”, verse 14 with “and” and then verse 15 starts with “but”. It does seem like these verses are all connected together.
Paul: That’s right. Each verse joins together with the next verse and together they make one complete thought. When I wrote to Timothy I was very concerned about a specific problem in Ephesus that was a sticky situation for Timothy and he sure needed my help. When I wrote to Timothy I alluded to the problem, which Timothy already knew about, I also gave him the solution to the problem, the reason for the problem and the expected outcome after the problem was fixed. I wrote all of this to instruct Timothy regarding what he should do and I also wanted to encourage him on the good results that I was expecting.
Doug: So how were we supposed to know that this was about a situation in Ephesus and not meant for all women? It sure seems to me that it was written as a general instruction. In fact when I look up commentaries on this passage, they all seem to think that you were talking about the role of women forbidden to be official teachers in the church.
Paul: That is a good question and I can help you with that. Before I give you an answer, why don’t you tell me what you think I intended when I wrote this set of verses?
Doug: I think you were pretty clear. You said that the woman’s role is to be quiet and learn. You do not want women to teach or have authority over men in the church because their role is to be quiet while the role of the men is to speak out as the spiritual authority and as the doctrinal teachers of the church. After all God gave man the preeminent first position. God’s original design was reversed when the woman took the man’s role by speaking out to the serpent and by her trying to speak for God. She fell into sin first when she usurped the man’s role. God has promised women that if they stick to their assigned roles and do not seek to be teachers of men, then they will have protection from deception.
Paul: That is quite an interpretation. It seems to me that you think I was saying that if a woman publicly speaks out about what she has learned in a way that appears to be teaching, then she has usurped the role of men.
Doug: I think that says it pretty well.
Paul: Hogwash! That interpretation would cause me to contradict myself. In the book of Corinthians I wrote that when the whole church assembles together all may speak out so that all may learn.
1 Corinthians 14:23,24 Therefore if the whole church assembles together and … all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all;
1 Corinthians 14:31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted;
Doug: I don’t think that is real teaching and it certainly isn’t preaching. I have heard that women aren’t allowed to preach because only men can speak in a powerful way to bring conviction to the consciences of men.
Paul: Let’s go back through this one more time.
1 Corinthians 14:24 – if an unbeliever or someone that is untaught comes into your midst and all speak publicly in prophesy, he will be convicted by all and called to account by all.
This kind of prophesying calls a sinner to repentance and is used by God to bring conviction. The results of this kind of prophesying expose the secret sins of the heart.
1 Corinthians 14:25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.
The sinner will have his sin exposed and brought to his attention and he will come under conviction and repent. Brother Doug, this is anointed preaching at its best. Do you see that this is allowed in public with the church assembled together? This is not the realm of the male alone. It is the realm of the whole church.
Doug: Well then maybe a woman is allowed to teach unsaved people in the church but she is not allowed to teach Christian men.
Paul: Double hogwash! The teaching and the learning is to be done by all and for all. This is the the purpose for the assembly of the church.
1 Cor 14:26,31 … When you assemble, each one …has a teaching, … For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted;
The Greek word for teaching is the word that means doctrine. If teaching doctrine is a man’s “role” then it is also a woman’s “role” because God made the woman to be a helper in the same realm as the man.
Doug: But why did you say that women cannot teach?
Paul: I didn’t. I gave Timothy instructions for the whole church and then when I changed the subject I also changed the grammar. Did you notice that I went from the plural in verse 9 to singular in verse 11?
Doug: Yes I saw that, but I thought you were talking about the same thing.
Paul: Then why would I need to change the grammar to singular?
Doug: I don’t know.
Paul: If I was continuing to talk about all women and all men in general, then the clearest way to show this would have been to simply carry on with the plural, wouldn’t that be true?
Paul: The grammar was changed for a purpose. I was writing to Timothy and he was not confused about what I wrote. I wrote the singular form of man and woman because of a specific problem. Timothy was left behind to stop the false teachers. There was one specific false teacher that posed a real challenge.
Doug: How would we know that you were talking about false teaching? You didn’t say that “a woman” can’t teach false doctrine to “a man”. You just said that she cannot teach a man.
Paul: The entire context is about deception. The only teaching that is completely forbidden in the context of the letter is false teaching. In chapter one I talk about those who are teaching error and then in chapter two I bring up the deception (verse 14) as a reason for the prohibition. Why would you think that I was stopping godly teaching when I gave the reason for the prohibition as deception?
Doug: It is because of the word that you used. False teaching has a different Greek word not the word you used.
Paul: And you are trying to educate me in Greek? I am impressed! Let me show you that you are wrong. Words that normally can mean a good thing can also mean bad things depending on the context. Look at Revelation 2:20.
Rev 2:20 ‘But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.
Notice that Jezebel teaches and leads and these two words are normally good things. In fact the word for “teach” here is the same one that I used in 1 Timothy 2:12. But do you see that the context shows that Jezebel is not teaching that which is good nor is she leading in a good way? The context defines the word. The context surrounding 1 Timothy 2:12 is deception.
Doug: If you wanted us to know that the teaching you wanted stopped is the teaching of error, then why did you connect it to Adam being created first?
Paul: I connected it to Adam because the first one created had something that immunized him from being deceived. Eve did not have this immunity because she was created after an event that Adam alone was privy to. Knowledge of a significant event protected Adam and his knowledge should have been used to protect Eve. Adam should never have been silent and allowed Eve to be deceived.
Doug: What was the thing that gave Adam immunity?
Paul: That will have to remain for another day when we are talking about the subject of Genesis. Time is so short for my stay here, but I will add it to the list of things to talk about.
Doug: So tell me how would we know that 1 Timothy 2:11-15 was not talking about women in general?
Paul: I have already given you in the two previous interviews the importance of a second witness. Today I can add to that foundation, and it is the fact that the grammar of verses 14 & 15 proves that this passage is not about all women.
Doug: Prove it.
Paul: Okay I will. Verse 14 is definite “the woman” but the grammar in this verse shows that although the deception of Eve is the model, the one called “the woman” is alive at the time of writing because the sin is continuing. The grammar is the perfect tense which means that the results of her actions are continuing. She is still in that transgression.
Doug: Couldn’t this be Eve’s sin continuing?
Paul: No because Eve is dead and gone and her transgression is not having a continuing action for her. Neither her deception or her transgression is continuing because she is dead.
Doug: Okay, so verse 14 is a specific woman, but isn’t verse 15 about generic woman?
Paul: No. If I wanted to speak about generic woman I would have made the grammar to be singular or I could have made it plural. I would not have moved from a singular to plural. The grammar is specific to a single woman and a couple (they).
Doug: Most commentators see 1 Timothy 2:15 as a shift from the singular to the plural as a proof that you are talking about women in general. In fact many translations say “women will be saved…if they“. They make it a matched plural.
Paul: But this is not the way it was written by me. This is putting an interpretation into the translation. Also where is the second witness?
Doug: What do you mean?
Paul: Do you remember when we were talking about the importance of every matter to be established by two or three witnesses?
Doug: Yes. I think you proved that quite well to me.
Paul: So where is a second witness that proves that a singular person can be called both she and they in the same sentence? Show me even one example in the Old Testament or the New Testament where there is another example of such a piece of grammar.
Doug: I have never heard of grammar being used this way except for 1 Timothy 2:15.
Paul: You are right because there is no second witness. The “experts” are wrong. There is not even one example of grammar like this in the entire bible that would establish a documented case. This is because this kind of grammar is in error. If I wanted to make 1 Timothy 2:15 to be about all women I could have said “She will be saved…if she” or “They will be saved…if they”, but it is a grievous error to say “She will be saved…if they” if “she” and “they” are the same thing – generic woman.
Doug: Are you trying to tell me that the commentaries are wrong?
Paul: Yes I am. And you can tell them they are wrong too.
Doug: How do I do that?
Paul: Ask them to give you a second biblical witness for a piece of grammar that makes a generic person to be called singular and plural. For example ask them if there is any other place in the bible where she is called they or he is called they.
Doug: What if they do have such an example?
Paul: (Laughing)…then they would have shown such an example by now, wouldn’t they? There is no such example at all in the bible because the Holy Spirit doesn’t inspire grammatical errors.
Doug: So what you are telling me is that you were writing Timothy about a specific woman and a specific man.
Paul: Yes and my grammar proves it beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Doug: Then why didn’t you make it easy on us and name her?
Paul: Because I only named those who were deliberate deceivers. Hymenaeus was one of those who deliberately deceived people about the resurrection. I named him and warned people about him. She was not one of those deliberate deceivers. Deliberate deceivers were sent out of the church to be “taught” by satan. I did this sending out of the church to Hymenaeus. The deceived are to be taught and corrected in the church by believers. I did this for her. I instructed Timothy to make sure that she learns. Do you see the difference?
Doug: This is all so new to me I don’t know what to think.
Paul: This is what you should think. Test all things. Hold fast to what is good and true. If you can find an example in the scriptures of a singular he being called they, then accept that verse 15 could be a generic conclusion about all women. But if you cannot find a second witness to prove this anomaly, then know for sure that the context of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is not about all women. It was a specific situation in Ephesus that I counseled Timothy on and it was dealt with in a proper manner.
Doug: Okay…..so tell me why did you connect women’s salvation with their roles if you were only talking about one woman?
Paul: Tell me, brother Doug. Were men given a promise that they would be saved from deception if they stayed in their “roles”?
Doug: Well, no.
Paul: And neither were women given that promise. The salvation I spoke of was the salvation out of the deception that she was already in. Teaching her sound doctrine and having her stay in the faith and with love for God and self control in order to stay away from false doctrine was what would make her safe. And the Messiah was the childbearing promised to Eve who was the very first one who was deceived. I made that clear by making “the childbearing” as a noun instead of a verb and it is a definite noun. THE childbearing = THE Messiah.
Doug: You have given me so many things to think about.
Paul: Good! Then I will say goodbye until next time. I am off to meet with some TV preachers who are fleecing the flock. I am bringing along my own shears to use on them before I show them the door.
Doug: Hot dog!
Click here to go to part 4.