I originally wrote this post in 2011. At the time, I was just beginning to discover that there are other interpretations of Scripture passages that do not limit women in the home and church, yet still honor the authority of the Bible. I was just learning about the difficulty of taking a too simplistic approach to 1 Timothy 2. Since then, I have earned a MDiv degree in Theological Studies, and I have taken 1 Timothy apart and re-built my own understanding of what was happening in the church that necessitated Paul to write that the women should not “have authority” over the men. You can read my series of posts on 1 Timothy 2, HERE.
In the previous posts, I have looked at Genesis 1-3 with ignorant eyes. By this, I mean that I have tried to remove my years of complementarian theological bias, to see if there is any evidence in the creation account that God designed women to be in subjection to men, and that for a woman to lead in the home or church goes against God’s created design. I found nothing to indicate God created the man to be the leader over the woman.
Now, let’s stretch forward thousands of years. The creation order figures into the Apostle Paul’s letters in a few spots. Those verses are used to justify keeping women out of titled positions in the church and to establish men as the leaders in their marriages. The texts that reference the creation order are 1 Timothy 2, 1 Corinthians 11 and Ephesians 5. This post will take a quick look at Paul’s mention of the creation order in 1 Timothy 2.
A bit of understanding
Before jumping in, I’d like to point out that 1 Timothy 2:11-12 is the most quoted verse when discussing the role of women in the church. It is foundational to those who teach Complementarian Theology. It is foundational because the Bible is viewed through thi
is the starting point for interpreting any passage that references women. These verses are the filter by which understanding of men and women is sifted. In my previous posts, this is the filter I tried to remove to honestly examine if God designed gender roles into the psyche of humans before the fall.
1 Timothy 2
9 I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.
11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
Whew, there is a lot to argue about in that passage! Fancy hair, “bling”, quiet women, non-teaching women, the only use of the word authenteō for authority in the Bible, deceived women and women saved by babies! This passage is exceptional…it mentions a number of things that aren’t discussed anywhere else. This makes me reticent to base any major belief on my understanding of it.
The topic for this post is the creation order of genders and roles. The question… is gender authority tied to the creation order or cultural context? I will try to sum one reason why I answer cultural.
Chronological order and deception
Verse 13 says Adam was created first. Yep, he was. Verse 14 links that first formation to what? Authority? Nope. Adam’s first formation is linked to not being deceived to sin. Does this mean Adam didn’t sin? Nope. It means his sin wasn’t because of deception. His sin was intentional, but that isn’t the point being made in the text.
The implied point (Implying and assuming is where the arguing starts, I realize.) is that Eve’s formation after Adam contributed to her being duped. The deception was due to Eve chronologically arriving later than Adam. This is the reason Paul gives for limiting the role of women in this church. I interpret this reference to the creation order as specific to Adam and Eve’s situation. Eve didn’t witness God’s power as Adam did (Gen 2:8-9;19-23). Proclivity to deception isn’t hard wired into all women. But Eve was prone to deception because of her immaturity. Just as some women, maybe those Paul is referring to in this letter (1 Tim 2:9-15; 3:11; 4:7; 5:3-16), are limited in understanding and also prone to being deceived and spreading heresy.
I believe Paul uses the chronological creation order in this passage to illustrate proclivity to deception due to limited understanding, not as props for hardwired male authority.
Guard against deception
Paul uses Eve’s particular deception again in 2 Corinthians 11. This time he leaves the creation order out.
I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. 3 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.
Paul condemns putting up with another gospel; going along with false teaching. We should not follow Eve’s example regardless of our gender or spiritual maturity. The only two places Eve is mentioned outside creation, is in context of being easily deceived. And Paul wants us to protect ourselves better than Eve did.
What filter will you use?
We all have our favorite angles. We understand scripture based on what is important to us. Patriarchy supporters use their understanding of the unusual 1 Timothy 2 to interpret gender roles at creation; to dismiss the women leaders in the early church; and compromise the authority-rejecting teaching of Jesus. I don’t. I begin with creation and work through to Jesus, and let that filter my understanding on this passage. What Paul says here will not contradict the truths found at creation and in Christ.
I realize there is much more in this passage related to gender roles, but creation order is relevant to this post.