On the First Epistle to Timothy

Chapter 2:11-15.

Taken from The Bible Treasury Number 339 - August 1884


Chapter 2:11-15

The apostle now turns to further details which correct female tendencies of quite another kind, but not a whit less important to heed if as christians they seek to glorify the Lord. Perhaps they are even more called for in these times, as men growingly lose sight of the divine order in their craving after the imaginary rights of humanity. How many now-a-days are in danger from a misdirected zeal or benevolent activity, without due reference to the written word! To such finery in dress might be no attraction, nor the frivolous changes of worldly fashions. Their very desire to abound in good works, by which the apostle wished them to be adorned, might expose them to a snare; and the more, as no fair and intelligent mind can doubt that women (to say nothing of natural capacity or culture) may have gifts spiritual as really as men. It was of moment therefore to regulate the matter with divine authority, as he now does.

"Let a woman in quietness learn in all subjection. But to teach1 I permit not a woman nor to exercise authority over a man, but to be in quietness. For Adam was first formed, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman quite2 deceived is involved in transgression; but she shall be saved in child-bearing, if they continue in faith and love and holiness with sobriety" (ver. 11-15).

The apostle had already laid down most salutary principles in, 1 Cor. xi. whence he had deduced that the man is woman's head, and that the head uncovered became him, as the covered head became her. He is called of God to public action, she to be veiled, for man is not from woman but woman from man, though neither is without the other in the Lord, while all things are of God.

Again, in 1 Cor. xiv. is laid down the imperative regulation, that the women are to keep silence in the assemblies, "for it is not permitted unto them to speak, but let them be in subjection, as also saith the law." They were forbidden even to ask their own husbands there. If they would learn anything, let them ask at home; "for it is shameful for a woman to speak in the assembly." What can be more distinct and peremptory than this? The ingenuity of will, however, has found a supposed loop-hole. The word "speak," say they, means only to talk familiarly or chatter. This is wholly untrue. It is the regular word for giving utterance, as may be seen in 1 Pet. iv. 10, 11. Here, "as each hath received a gift," they arc called to minister it as good stewards of the manifold grace of God; and the distinction is drawn between gifts of utterance and those of other spiritual service. " Η any one speaketh," he is to do so as God's mouthpiece, "if any one ministereth," he is to do so as from strength which God supplieth, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ." Now here it is the same word for "speaking" as is forbidden to the women in the former scripture. It is speaking in public, not prattling. The prohibition therefore is complete. Woman's place is a retired one; she is to learn in quiet with entire submissiveness.

But there is more here. "I permit not a woman to teach, nor to exercise authority over a man, but to be in quietness." This clearly is not limited to the assembly; as the apostle traces the ground of it in the constitution and natural character of woman. "For Adam was first formed, then Eve." Her subsequent formation out of the mania never to be forgotten by such as fear God and believe His word. All other thoughts are presumptuous theory in forgetfulness of the truth which goes up to the beginning. An individual woman may be comparatively able and well-instructed; but under no circumstances is leave given to a woman to teach or to have dominion over a man; she is to be in quietness. Thus absolutely does the apostle guard against any reaction from the abject place of women in ancient times, specially among the heathen; or any imitation of the peculiar prominence given to her sometimes in oracular matters, as among the Greeks and especially the Germans of old.

Had then women no seemly or suited, no good and useful, place in christianity? None can deny that they have, who see how honoured were some of them in caring for the Lord Himself in His ministry (Luke viii.), who know how He vindicated Mary that anointed Him when the apostles found fault under evil influence. Certainly He put no slight on Mary of Magdala, if His resurrection interrupted the plan of those who brought their spices and ointments after His death. Not otherwise do we find the action of the Holy Ghost when the Lord went to heaven. Mary the mother of John Mark gives her house for the gathering together of many to pray, and the four daughters of Philip were not forbidden to prophesy at home, though even there authority could not be rightly exercised over a man. Lydia is a beautiful example of christian simple-heartedness and zeal; her house too has honour put on it for the truth's sake. Nor was Priscilla out of place when she with her husband helped the learned Alexandrian, mighty in the scriptures, to know the way of God more thoroughly. Romans xvi. pays no passing honour to many a sister, from Ρheebe who served the church at Cenchrete, commended to the saints in Rome, as a succorer of many and of Paul himself. Prises or Priscilla again is coupled with her husband as his fellow-workers in Christ, who nut only for his life laid down their own necks but opened their house where. ever they went for the assembly. But need we dwell on all the canes and the beautifully discriminating notice taken of them? We may say of Evodia and Syntyche that there is not the smallest reason for conceiving them preachers, because they shared the apostle's labours in the gospel. That they joined their efforts with Paul in that work is no warrant for the inference that they preached. In those days a woman's preaching must have seemed far more egregious than her venturing to say a word in the assemblies of the saints. Even in private where they might exercise that which was given them in the Lord, they must never forget the form and the reality of subjection. In public ell teaching was forbidden. Such is the testimony of scripture, and nowhere with greater precision or breadth than here.

The apostle adds another reason, "Adam was not deceived; but the woman quite deceived is involved in transgression." The man may have been in a certain sense worse. He followed the woman in wrong against God, where ho ought to have led her in obedience; and he did it knowingly the was beguiled outright; he was not. Her weakness therefore, and its dangerous effect on man, are urged as an additional plea, why she should be in quietness, neither teaching nor ruling; let her own sphere be at home (1 Tim. v. 24).

The next words have suffered not a little through speculation. Some have yielded to Wells, Hammond, Kidder, Doddridge, Macknight, &c., and endeavoured to invest them with a direct reference to the Incarnation. But there is no sufficient reason for any such thought. The Authorised Version gives substantially the true sense, which is else maintained by the Revisers, although they affect a more literal closeness, which, tempting as it may be, seems really questionable here and unnecessary. For there is no doubt that in the apostle's usage as well as else where, the preposition with the genitive (as with the accusative also) may mean "in a given state," no less than the more common sense of the instrument used or the medium passed through.

Dean Alford's remarks are as unhappy yet characteristic a specimen of his exegesis habitually as could be desired: "saved through (brought safely through, but in the higher, which is with St. Paul the only, sense of σώζω, see below) her child-bearing (in order to understand the fulness of the meaning of σωθήσεται, we must bear in mind the history itself, to which is the constant allusion. . . What then is here promised her? Not only exemption from that curse in its worst and heaviest effects; not merely that she shall safely bear children; but the apostle uses the word σ. purposely for its higher meaning, and the construction of the sentence is precisely as ref. Ι Cor. [iii. 15]." Now we may well agree with him that Chrysosiom's interpreting τ. of christian training of children, as others of the children themselves, is beside the mark and indeed unfounded; but so is his own confusion of the government of God with the "higher meaning" of eternal salvation, which is not here in question. This very epistle (iv. 10) furnishes decisive proof that the preservative goodness of God in providence is fully maintained in christianity, though His grace in the gospel goes deeper, higher, and for ever. Dean Alford enfeebles the "higher meaning" by misapplying such an assurance of providential care as the text before us supplies. There is no doubt of saving grace inn Christ for the believer; but to turn this word aside from its obvious relation deprives us of the very object in view, the comfort of knowing that while God does net set aside the solemn mark of divine judgment from the first in the pangs of childbearing, it becomes in mercy an occasion of His providential intervention. Redemption clears away the clouds, so that the light may shine on all the path of the saint; and woman meanwhile shares the suited blessing in the hour of nature's sorrow. The forced elevation of scripture not only fails in power of truth, but darkens or takes away its 'precious consolation for the pilgrim now on earth.

The promised succour however is conditioned by abiding "in faith and love and holiness with sobriety." One feels how important such a proviso is, at a moment when human and even worldly feelings often encroach even on children of God. Where is family pride here? where the gratification of the wish for an heir of filthy lucre, of the hope of wide-spreading influence in that world which crucified the Lord of glory? Nor need one doubt the wisdom of the peculiarity in grammar which gives individuality to the deliverance vouchsafed in mercy, while it urges (not on the "children " as some have thought, nor yet on the husband and wife as others, but) on christian women generally the qualifying call to abide in all that fits and strengthens the sex for the due and happy and godly discharge of their momentous duties. It is continuance in faith and love and holiness "with sobriety," which is pressed on saintly women; who doubtless could already say with christians generally that God had saved them according to His own purpose and grace which was given them in Christ Jesus before time began.



1) The emphatic place is restored in accordance with א A D F G P, many cursives. Vulg. Goth. Arm. &c., and so I imitate in English.

2) The best MSS. sustain ἐξαπ. for ἀπ. in Text. Rec.