December 8, 2009

Gender and Number in 1 Tim 2 - Part 1

If anyone wants us to be perfectly literal about 1 Tim 2:12, we should note, at least as a beginning, that Paul is primarily speaking against one-on-one mentoring, female to male. "I do not allow a woman to teach or to direct a man." Everything in this statement is entirely singular. In other words, according to the strictest possible interpretation of 1 Tim 2:12, Paul could have approved of Priscilla teaching Apollos, because the prudent woman had her husband assist as she explained the way of God to a transient single male. (There's a sister with wisdom, eh?)

Ah, but the context! Verses 13 & 14 are clearly negative toward women, aren't they? Again, strictly speaking, they're negative toward one woman. Eve. So - at the very least - before we debate how broadly Paul expected Timothy to apply these statements, it's worth noting that vv. 13 & 14 keeps everything singular in number. In explaining his strict directive against one-on-one female-to-male discipleship, Paul reviews the case of the very first such case.

Whatever else Paul is saying, Eve & Adam were a particular one-on-one partnership, in which he followed her right into sin. In other words, Paul's illustration retains the singular intimacy of his prohibition. This may not be a coincidence. The male/female intimacy of a one-on-one discipling relationship may be all Paul is really afraid of.

Could it really be just that simple? Let's try to dig a bit harder.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Never really looked at it that way-- "one on one".
But,if Paul would have said, "I do not allow women to teach men...", and if we were to use the same strict understanding that you are using here, wouldn't we have to read it as "I do not allow a plurality of women to teach a plurality of men..."?

Too me, it just sounds weird either way.

Not throwing out what you are suggesting, just wondering if I'm tracking with you.

I don't know enough about language in general to criticize much here anyway... but I am very interested in seeing where you go from here on the issue.

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