Domination and a Reprise of the Chicken and the Egg

What came first? The Chicken or the egg? Most scientists will answer that at some point in evolutionary history when there were no chickens, two birds that were almost-but-not-quite chickens mated and laid an egg that hatched into the first chicken. If you are prepared to call that egg a chicken’s egg, then the egg came first. But, who really cares? All I care about is that I can still eat my bacon-egg-and cheese taco!

the chicken and the egg


The Quiet Disciples

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission” (1 Tim. 2:11).


I will now address the next four issues found in 1 Timothy 2:11-15.


#4 – What does Paul mean by repeating, in verse 12, that women must remain quiet (he used the same word as in v.11, hesuchia)?


By reiterating to the women (wives) that they were to remain “quiet,” Paul was reaffirming that the way to a non-dominating authority (for instance, in prophetic activity) was through humility, modesty, and unostentatious living. [384]


In this way, the wives would not be seen as trying to dominate (authentein) or outshine their husbands, even though they might carry a quiet kind of authority (exousia) in their ministries of prayer and prophecy.


It is also instructive that in 1 Timothy 2:11 and 2:12, Paul used the same word for “quiet,” hesuchia, found in 1 Timothy 2:2, where he instructed those in “authority” to live “quiet” lives.


However, he used a different word for authority in 1 Timothy 2:2, opting for the word, huperoche, which carries the connotation of preeminence or superiority. [385]


This indicates that Paul asked the kings and other men in places of “authority,” to seek humility and quietness in order to mitigate against abusive, dominating authority.


The same directive he gave to the women in 1 Timothy 2:11 and 2:12, he had already given to the men in 1 Timothy 2:2.


#5 – Was Paul stating a universal principle, since he emphasized that this is how he handles it?


It is very difficult to say whether or not Paul intended to create a universal principle with this directive. He was dealing with a problem that would have been universal in his world.


Women in general, and wives in particular, who were participating in the worship life of the church via prophecy, prayer, or speaking in tongues would naturally have had a new type of authority, potentially even over their own husbands. [386]


This would have caused problems in most parts of the first-century Mediterranean world.


On the other hand, Paul at times gave directives that were not meant to be universal or permanent. [387] There were even times when he delineated between a directive from God and one not generated from God. [388]


It is possible that his qualification, “But I do not allow a woman to teach” (1 Tim. 2:12a) was a conditional construct.


He used the same word for “I do not allow,” epilepto, in his Corinthian correspondence: “For I do not wish to see you now just in passing; for I hope to remain with you for some time ‘if the Lord allows’ (epilepto)” (1 Cor. 16:7).


Clearly, epilepto can be used as a conditional clause. However, the case for a conditional clause in 1 Timothy 2:12 is tenuous at best. [389]


The hierarchists point to Paul’s appeal to creation in verses 13-15 as proof that he was issuing a universal and timeless truth. [390] They make a good point.


The question, then, is what universal principle was Paul reinforcing with his appeal to creation?


#6 – Paul appealed to creation to reinforce his line of reasoning.

#7 – Paul reasoned that it was the man who was created first, and the woman, not the man, who was deceived and fell into sin.


I will address these observations jointly because they, along with his enigmatic statement about childbearing (v.15), are tied together in Paul’s appeal to creation.


Three things seem clear:

  1. Women were taking leadership roles in the house churches of Ephesus and the surrounding area. [391]
  2. Paul offered the directives of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 as a corrective to some problem they were encountering.
  3. Paul felt strongly about this corrective because he pointed to the creation account in Genesis 2 as support for his appeal.


Any interpretation and/or application of this text must take these observations into account.


The answer to the question of intent is difficult to navigate because how verses 13-15 are interpreted or what principle they are meant to undergird depends both on how verses 11-12 are interpreted, and what problem we assume Paul was attempting to correct.


There are three basic interpretations of verses 11-12. [392]

  1. Women should not be allowed to teach men, nor should they have authority over men.
  2. Women should not be allowed to teach men with authority.
  3. Women should not be allowed to teach men with a domineering authority.


I made a case for the last interpretation based on the sentence structure and the best rendering of the rare word Paul used for “authority,” authentein. [393]


Paul’s appeal to creation only strengthens my case.


1 Timothy 2:11-15 was written to the household churches using the language of Pauline household codes.


An appeal to Genesis 2 was something Paul did elsewhere when addressing the marriage relationship (Ephesians 5:31).


In Ephesians 5, Paul reasoned that the wife should submit to the husband and the husband should love the wife (as Christ loved the Church) because of the interdependent relationship God created in marriage. [394]


Similarly, in 2 Timothy 2:13-15, Paul reasoned that Adam was created first, and then Eve. He also appeals to Eve’s role in the temptation scene.


It seems clear that Paul felt that the primacy of the creation of Adam and the role of Eve in the sin event meant something about the male/female or husband/wife relationship.


In addition, Paul’s appeal to the second creation account (Genesis 2:4-3:24), as opposed to the first creation account (Genesis 1-2:3), shows that he was most likely appealing to the marriage relationship as opposed to the general male-female relationship. [395]


What does Paul mean, then, when he argues that Adam was created first, then Eve?


Fortunately, Paul gave us a clue as to his thinking on this matter in his letter to the Corinthians where he was addressing the same problem — authority in the male-female relationship as expressed in the household churches.


Paul wrote — “For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God” (1 Cor. 11:8-12).


In the Corinthian church, the problem was that the men were attempting to exclude the women from leadership in worship, or at least from participating without the traditional head-covering.


Paul offered a corrective and appealed to creation to undergird his thinking.


The correction was that although the man was created first and the woman for the man, “in the Lord,” the woman and man are interdependent and equally created by God.


In other words, just because the man was created first, doesn’t make him superior to the woman because both were created by God.


In Corinth, the problem was that the pendulum had swung against the women because the men were trying to dominate them. Paul appealed to creation to correct this pendulum swing by arguing that although the man was created first, in the end, both were created by God.


In Ephesus, the pendulum had swung in the opposite direction of that in Corinth. The women were teaching in a way that was dominating the men.


Paul offered the same basic argument, in reverse.


Just because the man is born from a woman doesn’t mean that she can dominate him. Don’t forget that the man was created first, not the woman, and the woman sinned (first), not the man. [396]


Notice that Paul’s directive to Timothy does not explicitly claim that the man should have authority over the woman, only that the woman should not exert undue authority over the man.


And that brings us to the next question — what did Paul mean when he reasoned that it was the woman who was deceived and fell into sin, and not Adam?


Was Paul saying that Adam was never deceived in the temptation scenario of Genesis 3? Did Adam know all along that the Serpent was lying? Was Paul saying that only Eve fell into sin?


There were second-century rabbis who placed all the blame for sin on Eve. [397] Sectors of first and second-century rabbinical Judaism had a very dim view of the woman’s ability to deal with sin and temptation based, in part, on their understanding of Eve’s role in the Fall. [398]


However, Paul clearly taught elsewhere that Adam fell to temptation and that sin entered the world through Adam (Rom. 5:12-14). In fact, Paul rarely mentions Eve when dealing with sin and temptation from a theological perspective.


Paul’s line of reasoning in 1 Timothy 2:14 is tied to the statement before it, 1 Timothy 2:13. Both statements were part of Paul’s attempt to undergird his directives on the way men and women should participate in worship.


Since the first line of reasoning depends on primacy – Adam was created first, and then Eve – it stands to reason that Paul meant to say the same thing with the second line of reasoning, namely that it was not Adam who was deceived (first), but rather Eve who was deceived (first), and therefore she is the one who fell into sin (first).


Therefore, Paul is not saying that Adam was not deceived, nor that he did not fall into sin, but rather that Eve did both, first.


As mentioned before, the woman was created to “help” man, but she “helped” him in the wrong way. Therefore, according to Paul, the woman should not exert undue authority over the man.


He could, of course, say the same thing about the man towards the woman, but that was not the issue Timothy was dealing with in Ephesus.


Paul’s Appeal to Creation


Finally, Paul’s appeal to the creation and fall account in Genesis 2-3, undergirds the idea that the problem he was dealing with in Ephesus was that of a domineering and controlling authority.


The issue that sin created in the male-female relationship after the Fall was that of a fight for domination.


It is summarized in Genesis 3:12 — “To the woman, he said, ‘I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor, you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.'”


Not coincidentally, Paul mentioned childbearing as a way forward for women in 1 Tim. 2:15. I will address this difficult verse in the next blog article. Here I would only point out that it forms a direct connection to Genesis 3:12 (and the battle for domination), the only place in the creation account that mentions childbearing.


The impact of sin on the male-female relationship was that the woman would desire to control her husband, but the husband would rule over her. [399]


This battle for domination was the very thing Paul seemed to address as the problem in the teaching ministry at Ephesus.


Therefore, Paul’s appeal to creation in Genesis 3 undergirds the translation of “authority” in 1 Timothy 2:12 as “dominating authority.”


In my next blog article, I will wrap up the discussion on 1 Timothy 2:11-15, by addressing 1 Timothy 2:15, the final and most enigmatic statement in Paul’s argument.





384. This was the thesis of his argument in this part of the letter: that all people, men and women, live and work together with proper respect for each other. For instance, he calls on all people to live “peaceful and quiet” lives and for all men “to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing” (1 Tim. 2:2, 8). When he turns his attention to the women, he calls for the same quiet spirit as manifested in the way they speak, dress, and adorn themselves (1 Tim. 2:9).

385. William D. Mounce, “Pastoral Epistles,” Word Biblical Commentary, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000), p.81.

386. Another group mentioned in the Pauline household codes that struggled with this issue would have been the slaves. We see echoes of this struggle in Paul’s letter to Philemon on behalf of his runaway slave, Onesimus. Paul, sending Onesimus back to his master, reminds Philemon that Onesimus is returning, “no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord” (Phil. 16). Slaves who became Christians lost their slave status in the church and were leaders with authority, sometimes over their slave owners. This was bound to cause a negative reaction from the slave owners, similar to that of the husbands towards the wives who had been liberated by the gospel to lead.

387. Douglas Moo, “What Does It Mean Not to Teach or Have Authority over Men?” RBMW, edited by Piper and Grudem, (Crossway, 2006), p. 188. Moo admits that “the New Testament contains many injunctions that are intended only for a specific situation, and when the situation changes, the injunction may change its form or lose its validity.” He references Paul’s command to “greet one another with a holy kiss” (1 Cor. 16:20), as an example of a Pauline command that is no longer observed.

388. 1 Corinthians 7:10-12; Whatever Paul means by this statement (and whatever authority results), he is clearly delineating between what he received from God and what he didn’t.

389. Philip H. Towner, “The Letters to Timothy and Titus,” The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2006), p. 217. Towner argues against the conditional statement.

390. Moo, RBMW, p. 188-191.

391. This is evident in Paul’s letters to the Ephesians and Colossians. Women played a prominent role in the formation and leadership of the household churches. In Laodicea, Paul greets Nympha and the church in her house (Col. 4:15), and in Colossae, he greets Apphia and the church that meets at her house (Phil. 2). In addition, Paul feels the need to establish the household codes for the household churches in his letters to Ephesus and Colossae (Eph. 5:21-33; Col. 3:18-25)

392. For a more detailed analysis of these interpretive conclusions, see my article in WIM, VOLUME TWENTY-NINE

393. For a more detailed analysis of the Greek word authentein, see my article in WIM, VOLUME TWENTY-NINE.

394. The husband-wife relationship as described in the Pauline household codes is beyond the scope of this essay. However, the governing principle for the marriage relationship is found in the Ephesian introduction to the household code, ” Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21). I would argue that in calling for wives to submit to their husbands, and husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church, Paul is calling for mutual submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and a relationship that is interdependent and modeled after the husband-wife relationship found in Genesis 2, before sin entered the world. In fact, Paul references that relationship as the foundation for the Christian marriage relationship.

395. See my article in WIM, VOLUME TWO for a description of the difference in the focus between the two creation accounts.

396. I will in due course make a case for Paul’s intent in his statement on sin to be an issue of primacy.

397. Philip H. Towner, “The Letters to Timothy and Titus,” The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2006), p. 230.

398. Ibid., p.230.

399. See my exposition of the punishment narrative from Genesis 3 in WIM, VOLUME TEN and WIM, VOLUME ELEVEN








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