December 16, 2009

A Chronological Reconstruction: 1 Tim 2 and Colossians/Ephesians

IF the provenance of 1st Timothy really does belong in Acts 19-20, as I strongly believe, then Colossians and Ephesians were written a few years afterwards. It's possible, therefore, that Paul's inherent misogyny had begun to abate by the time of his Roman imprisonment.

At any rate, is it not fascinating to consider that "no male or female" might very well belong after that infamous line from 1st Timothy? And despite the injunction on wives to submit (in Colossians) Paul comes down much harder on men this time (especially in Ephesians).

Here's my final suspicion: somebody in Rome read Colossians 3:18 & 19 as Paul was finishing the letter - maybe it was Priscilla, who was in Rome at that time! - whoever it was, they responded to Paul's remarks about men and women. A conversation convinced Paul (among other things) that he might do especially well to expand on his statements to men. Thus, before sending Tychicus onward to Colosse, Paul wrote the second letter (to Laodicea & Hieropolis, revising the end of his letter to mention this also. This second letter, of course, is the one we usually call "Ephesians".

Regardless of how this stuff tends to get preached, I'd argue with anyone that Eph.5:25-32a - strictly interpreted - ought to come across much rougher on men than Eph.5:22-24 & 32b comes down on women. At least, I've never met a man on this Earth who's ever laid down his life for a woman the same way Christ did for the church.

How, then, can men demand that women must follow Paul's injunction to submit? Any man who does so is a giant hypocrite. For myself, I'll just say that if I ever succeed for even one day at truly loving my wife as well as Paul asked me to, then maybe on that day I might have some room to challenge her about Paul's advice to women. Maybe. However, until that day comes, I consider myself to have no right to read or repeat those verses that are supposedly said to be about "submission".

I say "supposedly" not because I doubt, but because why should I care what those verses are about? Seriously. Aren't I'm a man? As a man, why should I read instructions that were only written to women? I don't expect I'd be able to understand them the way women would. Besides, frankly, it's none of my business.

I'm a man. Those "submit" verses weren't written to me, so I shouldn't read them. ;-)

Whatever else is true, putting 1st Timothy before Paul's Roman prison letters shows a man whose succinctly expressed double standard is softening somewhat, just less than five years later. Maybe meeting Philip's four daughters helped a bit. Maybe it was one more bout with the controlling nature of Jerusalem that convinced Paul to be less prohibitive.

I don't think Paul changed his opinion on not letting one woman disciple one man. I don't see Paul contradicting himself or saying anything "contrary to fact" anywhere along the way. I do think that some of Paul's own subtle misogyny (which exudes from 1 Tim 2 just by osmosis) had begun to change somewhat. In 1st Tim, he expressed Eve's fault but left Adam's crime unspoken. In Ephesians, he gives men the much heavier burden. (No one can live up to that!) One might even sympathize for poor Tychicus who had to go read that in at least three or four churches of Asia! What on Earth did they think? Ah, well. We all need to be challenged. ;-)

The fact is, in the Body of Christ, we all learn from each other. That "which every joint supplies" is intensively gender-inclusive. Therefore, I know this about the first century church. Priscilla and Junia may not ever have taught Paul one-on-one, but he learned from them. Over time, it sure seems, Paul did learn from his sisters in Christ.

Go therefore, men, and do likewise.


J. K. Gayle said...

I'm a man. Those "submit" verses weren't written to me, so I shouldn't read them. ;-)

What you're doing in looking at changes in Paul over time relative to women is fascinating. But you're a twenty-first Century American (not a first-century Mediterranean) - why do you take any of what he says as written to you (and/ or to your wife)?

Bill said...

Oops. This was supposed to post on Thursday. Ah, well.

Kurk, note the wink, but you do get that my point was made for those who take it as written for us. In addition, there's a good chance Ephesians actually was written for us today, by Paul.

Since Colossians was to a church Paul had never met, and because it was both general and particular, I conclude that Ephesians was written to ALL the churches Paul would never get to meet. As a revision of Colossians, it's entirely general, a perfect "circuit letter".

One more point beyond that wink. The verse wasn't written to me, _A_ man. It was written to all the men in a given church. That's a BIG difference.

brotherjohnny said...

"I've never met a man on this Earth who's ever laid down his life for a woman the same way Christ did for the church".

Of course not. Unless it were at a funeral.
Eventually, I'm going to try to cook up my own post on the same subject matter you have been posting here. That'll be much better than my stopping in throwing around random (although somewhat related) blurbs of 'reaction' to your obviously well thought out posts.

Again, I appreciate you and your work, brother.
Even if you are getting more theological than you care to admit.

Bill said...

Johnny, I'm not against "theology" depending on your definition. Never have been. I'm against those who put philosophical assumptions ahead of common sense, and those who discount the fact-claims of the NT in order to more easily manipulate the themes of the text.

I've never been against theology. I'm against theology. Clear now? :-)

brotherjohnny said...

All clear.

Cheryl Schatz said...


You said: "It's possible, therefore, that Paul's inherent misogyny had begun to abate by the time of his Roman imprisonment."

I liked what you said in this post except for the above quote. I do not believe that the Holy Spirit inspired any "misogyny" into Paul's writing. I believe that we are able to take the 1 Timothy 2 text and see compassion for a deceived teacher (the only command in verses 11-15 is in verse 11 as a command for her to learn) and no permanent injunction is set out with verse 15 showing that Paul is very hopeful that she will be saved...if...

While many have seen misogyny in Paul, I believe that Paul has been greatly misunderstood. I intend to give him a big hug in heaven for all the work that he did to lift up women and to encourage the church to accept their work and treat them with respect.

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