Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Should Women Submit to Men?



In Paul’s first letter to Timothy he writes a few lines that make modern women want to scream. Here’s chapter 2: 8-12:
8 Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. 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.
Okay, ladies and gents, let’s examine these verses carefully.
Right away in verse 8 there is a reference to our 10th Hebrew letter that matches up to the book of Timothy and means hand. We are to lift up “holy hands”; Young’s Literal translation says “kind hands”. Is this just for the men? No, because verse 9 actually starts in the original Greek with a word that means “in the same way” or “in like manner”. So, women should lift up their hands, too, plus dress modestly and, to give it a modern interpretation, they should not look like they are vying for a cover shot on a magazine about Hollywood glamour. Nope, instead they should adorn themselves with good deeds – do something to make God proud. (Extra info: three 1st century writers, the poet Juvenal, the Roman historian Pliny the Elder, and Philo a Jewish Hellenistic philosopher, all wrote about the women of their time who dressed extravagantly. From prostitutes to the wife of Caligula, they describe the jewelry, clothing and makeup of these pagan women. Paul probably wanted to caution Christian women to avoid being mistaken for one of them and compromising their witness. Wearing jewelry, makeup and nice clothes is not prohibited anywhere in the Bible.)
All right, verse 11 brings out the women’s libber in the majority of Americans. How do we deal with Paul’s statement that a woman should learn in quietness and full submission? Well, first of all this is really pretty liberal in that he’s saying that women should learn, up until then women didn't get much education, if any. Learning in quietness means just that. Full submission (or subjection, as some translators have used) does not mean that Christian women are not free and equal to their husbands – they are – but Paul is worried about the danger that a wife might usurp the husband’s authority; that would not please the Lord because He has placed the man as head over the woman in the marital relationship. So ladies, don’t get your feathers ruffled over these verses, there is a perfect order here and Paul is not relegating women to second class status any more than the letter g is less important than the letter f just because it comes behind it in the order of the alphabet.

The problem with verse 12 is that the word “woman” is actually “wife” in the Greek and the word “teach” in this instance means “to teach continuously”. Paul is saying that if the husband is present then the wife should not undermine his position in public; she should never encroach upon his role. When you understand the original intent of the language then you can avoid misunderstandings.