Sunday, December 23, 2012

Don't Rush to Certainty (1 Timothy 2:8-15)

There is an old rule of thumb in reading Scripture. Don’t build entire teachings or practices from single passages. There are plenty of examples of verses that seem to say something, but that we would do better to err on the side of caution rather than jump whole-hog into following. Most of us don’t handle snakes to prove our faith, for example. Or a better one (since that particular verse breaks another rule) would be to say we do not baptize people in the place of the dead even though Paul mentions the practice.

Here in 1 Timothy, many do not follow that rule. They take this passage to imply that women can’t teach. This does not seem to fit in with other examples of Jesus and Paul in ministry, and there is not another passage that repeats this teaching. However, many appeal to the mention of Adam and Eve to claim that this teaching is universal and not simply a cultural or situational application. Interestingly, few of these same people apply that universality to the whole passage. They don’t tend to preach against make-up or jewelry, or that women are saved through motherhood.

In light of other teaching regarding gender in the Kingdom, namely that there is no distinction between men and women, maybe we ought to be cautious in this case. This is certainly not a case where the Bible clearly states a wrong that will be punished in some way. On the other hand, we are repeatedly warned not to be too sure of ourselves and our interpretations in teaching. And to be loving and accepting of each other.

In any case, the main theme of 1 Timothy is to stand against false teaching that goes against the Gospel message. This sort of exclusivism may qualify as just such a teaching. It may be more plausible that the women in Ephesus were behind a lot of the false teaching Paul is addressing. Perhaps it even had something to do with what they were teaching regarding Eve.

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