In a recent blog post there has been some discussion on 1 Timothy 2:11, 12 in the comment section, and the question of whether “a woman” is generic woman or a specific woman. I always appreciate questions and challenges on my position as it continually pushes me to continue to do research in order to answer the questions that are posed to me.
The question that was posed to me was regarding “a woman” and whether there is any proof that she is a particular woman that Timothy was aware of. The reason the question was asked is because in 1 Timothy 2:14 “the woman” is referenced and it is clear from the grammar that this is not Eve because “the woman” is still in the after effects of her transgression and her deception and since Eve is dead, her transgression is not on-going. A similar situation is in 1 Timothy 2:15 where “she” will be saved…if… The grammar is future tense and again it is impossible for this to be Eve as Eve is dead and gone and her salvation cannot be in the future and conditional.
The person who challenged me believes that “the woman” in 1 Timothy 2:14 is indeed a woman who is one of the deceived teachers who Timothy was instructed to stop from teaching, but he also seems to be convinced that since the first reference to “woman” in 1 Timothy 2:11, 12 is without the definite article that the first reference to a singular woman must be a “generic” woman while the last reference would be to a specific woman since the definite article is there. He did say that it is possible that I am correct that “a woman” of 1 Timothy 2:11, 12 was that specific person but he said that there is no real way for us to know for sure.
In doing some research on this issue, I came across a strong precedent for a second reference within the context where the definite article attached to a noun connects to a first noun that is without the article. It is called an anaphoric reference. I have an audio clip from Dr. James White who is quoting his agreement on a grammar reference from Dr. Daniel Wallace on the anaphoric reference. You can hear the audio clip here James White on Anaphoric reference. Below is the transcript of the clip.
Normally when an anaphoric use is in view, the preceding use of the noun will lack the article. It will not be articled. And if you read Greek then you will know that in James 2:14 when it says that a person says they have faith (ean pistin lege) pistin does not have an article, so this is a classic example where you have a noun, then you have the repetition of the noun later with an article, that article is pointing us back to the preceding use of the noun. This is called the anaphoric use of the article.
…something within a text that has not yet been identified. For example, in “Because he was very cold, David promptly put on his coat” the identify of the “he” is unknown until the individual is also referred to as “David”.
The cataphora that co-refers to a later expression is described here:
In linguistics, cataphora (from Greek, forward + carry) is used to describe an expression that co-refers with a later expression in the discourse. That is to say, the earlier expression refers to or describes a forward expression. For example, given: “Finding the right gadget was a real hassle. I finally settled with a digital camera.” The “right gadget” is an instance of cataphora because it refers to “a digital camera,” an object that hasn’t been mentioned in the discourse prior to that point. Cataphora is a type of endophora and it is the opposite of anaphora, a reference forward as opposed to backward in the discourse.
As a general rule, cataphoras are quite less common than anaphoras in all natural languages; furthermore, cataphoras that are not sentence-internal are typically very uncommon in informal, conversational contexts.
Cataphora is often used for rhetorical effect. It can build suspense and provide a description. For example:
- He’s the biggest slob I know. He’s really stupid. He’s so cruel. He’s my boyfriend Steve.
In keeping with Paul’s very uncommon one-of-a-kind grammar in 1 Timothy 2:11-15, we find not only a word that is found nowhere else in the Bible (authentein), a unique definite noun (the childbearing) but also a cataphora example of an anaphoric reference. Paul describes the solution before he describes the problem (let her learn), he describes the solution as a promise (she will be saved…if…) and he describes the woman without the definite noun before he identifies her as “the woman” who is in the transgression.
We now know that Paul’s grammar using an anarthrous noun first and later referring back to the noun through a repetition of the noun but with the definite article is also used in James 2:14.
James 2:14 (NAS)
Faith and Works
14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?
Is there a grammar usage that assures us that Paul is not talking about all women and forbidding all women from teaching “a man” and “authentein a man”? Yes! It is a cataphora which is an anaphoric reference. “The” woman in 1 Timothy 2:14 is the clear identifier of the specific woman that was the recipient of Paul’s prohibition. Paul uses the anaphoric reference to take us back from verse 14 to her sin in verse 12 and the solution to her sin in verse 11 and through this grammar reference we can identify the woman who Timothy was instructed to give Paul’s prohibition to.
There you have it. It is a precedent in a piece of linguistic grammar that makes the furthest reference clearer than the closest reference. It is just what Paul did with “a woman”.