December 16, 2009

Gender and Number in 1 Tim 2 - Part 7

In closing this series, I'm going to say a brief word from John's Revelation. Like Paul in 1st Timothy, the exile on Patmos has noted a weakness of Adam & Eve's Garden. At the end of John's vision, he saw Eden's River and Tree of Life. At the end of all things, unlike at the beginning, the place of God on Earth is secure. It has walls.

Obviously, walls are defensive. Evidently, the serpent will not get into the New Jerusalem. But there's more. These walls themselves are very special. The foundation stones are the apostles of the church. The gates of the walls are the twelve tribes of Israel. That leaves one part of the wall unaccounted for. The stones in-between each pair of gates, the regular stones, are most likely, I presume, the saints of the churches of God.

The saints are not mentioned elsewhere. The interior of the city was one giant gold street, like a courtyard. There are no houses mentioned. Likewise, there is no Temple, but the entire city is full of the Lord's presence. Like a bride, she envelops Him, and he remains within her. She (we) is (are) all around Him. Heaven is open above us. The Earth rises up beneath us. But nothing beyond us will interfere ever again with the one, who is Life, who is finally within us.

In the beginning, according to Genesis, Adam & Eve never ingested the fruit of Life. The snake tempted the woman, and the man joined her in sin. The enemy got past two pitiful mortals, who had not yet partaken of God's Life.

In the end, according to Revelation, God's Garden is full of Him who is Life. Therefore the stones - Living Stones? - will be full of Life. The enemy will never get past such a multitude of Christ-ones, so they stand as a Wall.

In Genesis 2, God told the first man and women to multiply. In Revelation 21, they seem to have done so. None of this is an argument for what Paul must have meant in 1st Timothy, but if John's Revelation also contains truth, then we may at least mention that - even in Paradise, even in His constant presence - God's people will always continue to find greater safety in numbers.

This illustration unfortunately concludes everything I have to say about 1st Timothy. Yes, I left points unaddressed. No, this is hardly a slam dunk argument. It stands as common sense that no man or woman should mentor an individual of the opposite sex in an intimate context. However, I contend that really might be all Paul is saying in 1 Tim 2:12.

Paul's illustration from vv.13-15 takes the faults of the first intimate couple and expands their situation into plurality. Whether one or all women are being "saved" and "preserved", in verse 15, that probably speaks much less - to a first century mind - about performing a specific task, than it does about propagating one's clan to strengthen the odds of survival. More deeply, in keeping with the context of everything else Paul ever wrote, this salvation through plurality may also have more to do with fostering a large, healthy Christian Community.

Eve still reproduces metaphorically. The Church, also feminine, reproduces spiritually. The human couple in Genesis gets replaced by a divine couple in Revelation, and - men - we are all part of that woman!

--------------------

For my final word now, I'll pull back just a bit. In the future, I merely suggest that those who never tire of investigating Paul's remarks about gender in 1st Timothy 2, should also spend some serious thought on the issue of number as well. We have evidence of a numeric shift that may also mirror a deep spiritual shift in Paul's language. Whether or not I've unlocked this puzzle for good, there's a lot here to consider.

The End (for now)


Tomorrow and Friday, come back for some considerations about 1st Timothy within the larger context of Paul's writings, based on one plausible Pauline Chronology.

1 comment:

Cheryl Schatz said...

Bill,

You said: "It stands as common sense that no man or woman should mentor an individual of the opposite sex in an intimate context."

I would seriously consider changing this to "no unmarried man" or "unmarried woman". No husband or wife should fear discipling their own spouse.

Recent Posts
Recent Posts Widget