I originally wrote this post ten years ago. At the time, I was just beginning to discover that there are valid 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 that I had been taking too simplistic of an 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 removed 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 intentional 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.
Paul mentions the creation order of man before woman in a few places in his writings. Complementarians use these verses to justify keeping women out of lead positions in the church and to establish men as the leaders in their marriages. The texts that reference the creation order are 1 Timothy 2:12-14, 1 Corinthians 11:8-9 and Ephesians 5:23.
This post will take a quick look at Paul’s mention of the creation order in 1 Timothy 2. Is the idea of male authority tied to the creation order or cultural context? The context of these verses are tied to the context of the entire letter. Paul was combating the false teaching that was deceiving the Ephesian church. These verses (and others throughout the letter) reveal that the deception was being taught by women. This is the context behind his allusion to the creation order in 1 Timothy 2.
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 she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
1 Timothy 2:11-15
1 Timothy 2:11-15 is foundational to Complementarians.
Before jumping in, I’d like to point out that 1 Timothy 2:12 is the most quoted verse when discussing the role of women in the church. It is foundational to Complementarian Theology. Complementarian Theology interprets this verse at face value and applies it to women everywhere, at every time. It is the starting point for interpreting all biblical passages that reference women. This verse is the filter through which the complementarian understanding of men and women is sifted. All other verses conform to this foundational truth: Women, created second to man, cannot teach nor hold positional authority over men.
1 Timothy 2:11-15 is aberrant.
Aberrant describes something that deviates from the usual. It is exceptional, not normal. First, the Greek word translated as “assume authority over” is not used anywhere else in the Bible. Its uniqueness makes an absolute definition puzzling. Also, the New Testament only presents salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. But in verse 15, Paul says “she will be saved through childbearing.” Again, because this idea is not mentioned elsewhere, we are left with a puzzle as to meaning. This aberrance makes me reticent to base any major belief on my understanding of it. It should not be a foundational passage.
1 Timothy 2:11-15 links the creation order with deception, not authority.
Verse 13 says Adam was created first.
Yep, he was.
Verse 14 links that first formation to what? Authority? Leadership?
Adam’s first formation is linked to not being deceived to sin.
Does this mean Adam didn’t sin?
It means his sin wasn’t because of deception.
Adam’s sin was intentional, but that isn’t the point being made in 1 Timothy. Paul links the woman being created second with her deception. She sinned without knowing she was sinning. In fact, she thought that eating was the right thing to do. That is what deception is. It is believing something that is not true.
Paul’s point is that Eve’s formation after Adam contributed to her being duped. The deception was due to the chronological creation order. She arrived later than Adam. Eve didn’t witness God’s power in creating all the animals and another human as Adam did (Gen 2:8-9;19-23).
Proclivity to deception isn’t hard wired into all women. 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. 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.
Both men and women should guard against deception.
Paul uses Eve’s particular deception again in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4. This time he leaves the creation order out.
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. For 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 in Scripture, 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 aberrant 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.
Instead of using this passage to base my understanding of men and women in the body of Christ, how about Galatians 3:28? There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Just as Adam and Eve became one in marriage at creation, so now men and women are joined together as one in the body of Christ.
Continue Reading the Series
In the very beginning : Genesis 1 (Updated 2020)
Creation Order 1 : Genesis 2 (Updated 2020)
Creation Order 2 : Genesis 2 (Updated 2020)
Creation Order 2 1/2 : Genesis 2 (Updated 2020)
Creation Order 3: Genesis 3 (Updated 2020)
Creation Order 4 : 1 Timothy 2 (Updated 2022)
Creation Order 5 : 1 Corinthians 11
Creation Order Conclusion