December 15, 2009

Gender and Number in 1 Tim 2 - Part 6

So, if the passage from 2:8-14 is entirely focused on modesty and prudence, and Paul's only opposed to one-on-one discipleship as far as women teaching is concerned, what's up with "she will be saved by childbirth"? I'm not sure, but I'm going to try building on the question I asked at the end of post #2: "Is Paul partly suggesting the tragedy of a one-on-one problem can find salvation through multiplication?"

One problem in the Garden of Eden was that the snake caught the duo before they had multiplied. Worse yet, the snake probably caught Eve alone. (Adam does not appear from Gen.3:1-5a.) Like Solomon said that many counselors contain wisdom, Paul said the church is held together from that which every joint supplies (Eph.4). Paul, of course, also knew that the snake caught Eve alone, and that her disobedience spread to Adam. This illustrates that a one-on-one situation is not only dangerous because of male/female intimacy issues. A one-on-one partnership is also dangerous because there is less safety for a duo, on many levels, than there is with a larger community.

From that perspective, we should realize that part of childbearing is multiplying, and that a key advantage of growing in number is being able to pluralize corporate functioning.

Now then, I don't know how Paul understood v.15, or if he really meant to imply that the churches' behavior might be somehow "saving" or "preserving" our great grandmother Eve. I'm certainly not speculating on Eve's eternal destiny one way or the other. I will, however, suggest that Paul must have noticed how God (in the Old Testament) kept on calling the nation of Israel "Jacob" for hundreds of years. I can also attest my children's grandparents have seen many ancestors in their sweet little faces. In some sense, we may all "preserve" Eve in some respect, and perhaps all the more so when we live up to what God planned for Eve (and for Adam) to do.

Verse 15 may or may not be that deep. But the grammar seems clear. The implied "she" is singular and so the implied "they" should logically refer EITHER to Adam & Eve as a couple OR to the fruits of their childbearing, their descendants. I find the second to be more likely because of the future tense verb.

I won't speculate further on Paul's bizarre theological tangent, except to emphasize once again that - whatever else is going on here - the progression of thought shows that Eve's singular fall is somehow, at least partly redeemed by the multiplication of her own company. Beyond that , Eve's seed (via Abraham, according to Paul in Galatians) eventually produced Christ, in whom the whole Body is held together, and in whom we fulfill God's original purpose for Adam & Eve, on Earth.

Perhaps Paul is only saying that Eve took care of the multiplying, and now we (in Christ) have to finish the rest. Whatever he means, the theological implications still appear to be some kind of tangent. The shift from singular back into plural marks a turning point for Paul's thoughts in the letter.

My own bottom line: Whether or not my attempts to explain this shift are all valid, we must note that it corresponds with the natural pluralization of childbirth. As I said in post #2, that observation could very well change the whole view of who "she" and "they" might be.

There are still questions, of course, but the potential significance demands further attention.

To be concluded...

6 comments:

brotherjohnny said...

Here is N.T. Wrights translation of the I Timothy 2 verses that you are looking at:

8)So this is what I want: the men should pray in every place, lifting up holy hands, with no anger or disputing.
9)In the same way the women, too, should clothe themselves in an appropriate manner, modestly and sensibly. They should not go in for elaborate hair-styles, or gold, or pearls, or expensive clothes;
10)instead, as is appropriate for women who profess to be godly, they should adorn themselves with good works.
11)They must be allowed to study undisturbed, in full submission to God.
12)I’m not saying that women should teach men, or try to dictate to them; they should be left undisturbed.
13)Adam was created first, you see, and then Eve;
14)and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived, and fell into trespass.
15)She will, however, be kept safe through the process of childbirth, if she continues in faith, love and holiness with prudence.

You can read the full article here:
http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Women_Service_Church.htm

I like it.

brotherjohnny said...

Man, do I just kill comment sections these days, or what?
:-P

Cheryl Schatz said...

Bill,
You said: "This illustrates that a one-on-one situation is not only dangerous because of male/female intimacy issues. A one-on-one partnership is also dangerous because there is less safety for a duo, on many levels, than there is with a larger community."

There is nothing dangerous about a wife teaching her husband the truth of God's word. My husband and I have our devotions in the morning after breakfast and sometimes he tells me what he has learned from the passage he is reading and sometimes I tell him an insight about what I have just read. Neither of us ever feels that it is a danger for him to teach me his insight, nor is it dangerous for me to teach him. Paul must have meant something else other than the forbidden of a single woman (me) from teaching the truth of God's word to a single man (my husband).

You also said: "From that perspective, we should realize that part of childbearing is multiplying, and that a key advantage of growing in number is being able to pluralize corporate functioning."

Well, Jesus said that "corporate functioning" was good enough when just two or three gather together in His name. That means that it is good enough if only a husband and a wife gather together in Jesus' name.

You said: "Now then, I don't know how Paul understood v.15, or if he really meant to imply that the churches' behavior might be somehow "saving" or "preserving" our great grandmother Eve. I'm certainly not speculating on Eve's eternal destiny one way or the other."

One thing I know for sure...there is nothing that I can do by myself or in conjunction with others that will "save" or "preserve" Eve. Her eternal destiny cannot be changed as she is dead.

You said: "Verse 15 may or may not be that deep. But the grammar seems clear. The implied "she" is singular and so the implied "they" should logically refer EITHER to Adam & Eve as a couple OR to the fruits of their childbearing, their descendants. I find the second to be more likely because of the future tense verb."

The problem here is that "childbearing" has nothing to do with Eve's descendants. It is singular not plural. It is also a noun and not a verb. It is one particular seed of Eve's that alone provides salvation but it is not to Eve but to the woman who Paul stops from teaching. It is only a person who is teaching error that salvation will be in question. A person who knows the truth and who teaches the truth never has her salvation questioned in the Scripture.

Cheryl Schatz said...

continued...


You said: "Beyond that , Eve's seed (via Abraham, according to Paul in Galatians) eventually produced Christ, in whom the whole Body is held together, and in whom we fulfill God's original purpose for Adam & Eve, on Earth."

You said that Eve's seed eventually produced Christ. No, that is not correct since there is only one seed. Only Jesus is Eve's seed. It is singular. Remember that we are paying close attention to the singular and plural. In that vein let's also pay close attention to the "childbearing" as it too is singular. Don't let this one slip out of your radar!

You said: "Perhaps Paul is only saying that Eve took care of the multiplying, and now we (in Christ) have to finish the rest. Whatever he means, the theological implications still appear to be some kind of tangent. The shift from singular back into plural marks a turning point for Paul's thoughts in the letter."

The shift from the singular back into plural is indeed a turning point for Paul's thoughts. Good point! But if we want to be faithful to the singular shift, we must also pay attention to the future tense and the conditional grammar. "she will be saved...if they continue..." The is no doubt that "she" is part of "they" but "she" also must do something about her salvation. This cannot be about Eve. Eve is dead.

But you are on to something. Don't stop trying to think outside the box. You have noted that the grammar is important. Keep paying attention to each part. And also realize that your "understanding" would only limit wives from having freedom to share their insights with their husbands as a man and a woman did not dialog in public because of the social restrictions of that day.

Bill said...

Johnny, I'm not sure that's a translation. But I do agree, what's not to like.

Cheryl, succinctly:

My point on "salvation" was that I do think that word can refer to other things besides eternal destiny.

A married couple teaching each other is not what Paul spoke against. Also, a couple whose teaching comes from and goes back to the rest of the body, is not in isolation. Also, see my response on part 5.

That verse "2 or 3" is probably to encourage the remnant of a church that refused to acknowledge sin. It's a desperate situation - not an ideal. Also, God was with Adam & Eve also, but access to him wasn't enough to keep them from error.

Sure, "childbearing" is singular. So is brood, ecclesia, and treasury. Those singular nouns each refer to a plurality.

On "seed", in Paul's thought, see Galatians.

Cheryl Schatz said...

Bill,

You said: "My point on "salvation" was that I do think that word can refer to other things besides eternal destiny."

Why do you believe this way? All of Paul's other references in the epistles are for spiritual salvation. Why would this one be different and what is the salvation a salvation from?

You said: "A married couple teaching each other is not what Paul spoke against. Also, a couple whose teaching comes from and goes back to the rest of the body, is not in isolation."

Paul doesn't mention the term "isolation" and if Paul was talking about a couple teaching each other exclusively without going back to the rest of the body, then it seems out of place that he would only put his prohibition on the woman and not on the man. This of course fits verse 15 where only "she" is in question regarding "salvation". The question of whether she will be saved or not is never about "them" i.e. "they" will be saved...if they... but only about the woman "she". I think that the fact that the question of salvation is on the "she" alone, and it is a future tense, this must work into a natural understanding of the passage.

You said: "That verse "2 or 3" is probably to encourage the remnant of a church that refused to acknowledge sin."

If this was the case then the emphasis should be on the salvation of those who refused to acknowledge sin instead of emphasizing that "she" will be saved...if... Why would not Paul say that they (the man and woman) are needed to help those who are in danger of falling away? Yet Paul sticks to the question of the salvation of one woman, not on a group of people.

You said: "Also, God was with Adam & Eve also, but access to him wasn't enough to keep them from error."

It appears to me that you are implying that Adam fell into error. But this isn't what the Scripture says. Only Eve fell for the lie. Adam did not. Adam had everything that he needed to expose the lie so that in the end he did not believe the lie but kept his knowledge of the truth. His problem was not that he was deceived, but that he disobeyed with full knowledge that the words spoken by the serpent were not the truth. Eve is the only one who did not have the full experience with God as Adam was formed first and there was a period of time before she existed.

You said: "Sure, "childbearing" is singular. So is brood, ecclesia, and treasury. Those singular nouns each refer to a plurality."

It isn't just a singular noun but a definite noun "the" with the singular. There is no indication in the text that this is about all women or about all births. There was only one child that was born that came into the world for our salvation. That was Jesus.

You said: "On "seed", in Paul's thought, see Galatians. "

In Galatians, Paul specifically says that it is seed (singular) not seeds (plural). In the book of Galatians that you referred to, the seed is Christ. It is singular and it is one particular person.

Thanks for allowing me to post my thoughts to spur you on to excellence.

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