Monday, September 05, 2011

refuting female superiority

After writing about 1 Tim. 2:12 on the BLT, in response to this post about Wright's explanation of this passage, I found myself asking a few questions about 1 Tim. 2:14. It seems counterintuitive. Women are crafty, women are gullible, which sexist notion is more easily supported by the biblical text?

1 Tim. 2:14, "And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner," is one of the most puzzling verses in the Bible. It does not describe the women of the Bible at all. In fact, quite the reverse. First, women who considered wise counsellors, and second, women deceived men all the time in the Bible. Let's look at these two situations.

First, the wise women of the Bible are the wise hearted חַכְמַת-לֵב or skilled women of Ex. 35,
25 Every skilled woman spun with her hands and brought what she had spun—blue, purple or scarlet yarn or fine linen. 26 And all the women who were willing and had the skill spun the goat hair. NIV

25And all the women that were wise hearted did spin with their hands, and brought that which they had spun, both of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine linen. 26And all the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun goats' hair. KJV
Clearly, women had skill (wisdom) in the same way that men had skills (wisdom.) Other women who give much needed and respected advice are Deborah, Esther and Huldah. But recently my attention was drawn to the wise woman of Abel.
16Then cried a wise woman out of the city, Hear, hear; say, I pray you, unto Joab, Come near hither, that I may speak with thee.

17And when he was come near unto her, the woman said, Art thou Joab? And he answered, I am he. Then she said unto him, Hear the words of thine handmaid. And he answered, I do hear.

18Then she spake, saying, They were wont to speak in old time, saying, They shall surely ask counsel at Abel: and so they ended the matter.

19I am one of them that are peaceable and faithful in Israel: thou seekest to destroy a city and a mother in Israel: why wilt thou swallow up the inheritance of the LORD?

20And Joab answered and said, Far be it, far be it from me, that I should swallow up or destroy.

21The matter is not so: but a man of mount Ephraim, Sheba the son of Bichri by name, hath lifted up his hand against the king, even against David: deliver him only, and I will depart from the city. And the woman said unto Joab, Behold, his head shall be thrown to thee over the wall.

22Then the woman went unto all the people in her wisdom. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri, and cast it out to Joab. And he blew a trumpet, and they retired from the city, every man to his tent. And Joab returned to Jerusalem unto the king. 2 Samuel 20:16-22.

Is there any suggestion here that women are more vulnerable to deception than men? Did the ancient Israelites believe that? I find it hard to accept that it was a pervasive belief that women were more prone to being deceived than men. However, perhaps this had shifted by the time 1 Timothy was written.

On the other hand, since women had less political and legal power than men, they often attempted to exert control over men in other ways. A man could overrule his wife, and it would be thought of as normal and right. But a woman could not overrule her husband. If desperate, she must resort to some other means. She did not have the same legal power as a man.

Some women who deceived men, and in this way furthered the narrative in the Hebrew Bible, and possibly the will of God, are Rebecca, Leah, Tamar and Delilah. Perhaps you can add to this list.

An alternative reading for 1 Tim. 2:14, then, is that, instead of declaring female inferiority, it simply refutes female superiority. This view is well represented here,

Paul follows his ban on women teachers by reiterating sound teaching that counters the false teaching. For Adam was formed first, not Eve, like the cult of Artemis and the gnostics taught. He then points out that Eve became deceived and sinned. This is hardly the basis upon which to claim female-superiority and divine knowledge. Eve did not do a noble thing or liberate the world; she was tricked into violating the command of God. It’s important to note that Paul is not arguing for male superiority, just refuting female superiority by pointing out the facts of the creation account. He is not implying that because Eve was deceived all women are prone to deception or because she was created second that women may never be entrusted with the ministry of the word. Directly after refuting this false teaching, he moves onto the childbirth subject.


8 comments:

diamondnell said...

"An alternative reading for 1 Tim. 2:14, then, is that, instead of declaring female inferiority, it simply refutes female superiority."

Good point. I always learn something when I come here -- thanks, Suzanne!

Don said...

The latter example you gave is how I read it, per the Kroegers. That is, Paul is repudiating a specific teaching from Ephesus that claimed Artemis of Ephesus and other women were to be over men.

Jim said...

Impossible. Impossible for me. I can’t keep up with this stuff. I’m glad that there are those with intense passions and competence to untangle this stuff. Or try. I keep thinking of a random generator which generates random temptations until the generator gets a temptation to stick. If the temptation sticks to a male, then that temptation is sexualized as a male temptation by observers who see it stick. It’s the ‘male’ temptation. Is that temptation truly sexualized? No. Not really. It’s just the one temptation that stuck to one male. The random temptation generator generates temptations until it gets another temptation that sticks. This time, to a female. That temptation is sexualized for observers who infer that the temptation hit a generic female weakness. Is it? No. Not really. It’s just one temptation that stuck to one female. Male or female superior competencies and deficiencies may have some sort of weird ecological correlations. Or not. There are texts that strike me as sexist at face value. That’s my face. And my value. Like 1 Tim. 2:14. I’m thankful for Suzanne's second look. It’s hard-to-impossible for me to tell whether I’ve learned more about Timothy or myself? I don’t really know. I do know that almost everything I read in and about – 1 Tim. 2:14 – ends up feeling more like a thought-experiment than probable exegesis (again, I’m not competent). I end up starving to death in desire to have been there to know and feel the entire context. And to sit down with the author of 1 Tim. 2:14, and ask, “here is what I heard you say, is that what you meant?” Eternal questions. More questions than answers. ~ Jim

Lin said...

There really is no other way to read it based upon what we know about the teaching in the Temple of Artemis AND the fact that we would have to admit that Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the Cross and the promised indwelling Holy Spirit was NOT enough for women to overcome deception. (Not to mention all the OT examples you gave)

It simply boggles my mind how this "perpeturally deceived women" doctrine continues to be taught and bought by so many people. To what end? Why? It dishonors Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for believing women.

Marg Mowczko said...

I'm grateful for this post. It confirms some of my thoughts on what Paul was saying in 1 Timothy 2:13-14

A. Amos Love said...

Hi all

Seems The Gospel Coalition is at it again today.

“Can Jackie O Teach Us to Be Good Complementarians?”

What???

Here’s the link in case anyone cares to comment.
You never know who’s lurking and questioning this stuff. :-(

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2011/09/20/can-jackie-o-teach-us-to-be-good-complementarians/?comments#comments

Oh Yea - They have banned me from this site - I’ve gone thru three cyber names.
I’m running out of email addresses. ;-)

Julia Gwin said...

2 thoughts, briefly, as this is an old thread:

1. Genesis says Adam was WITH Eve when she fell. No one talks about it, but that strikes me as very significant.

2. Man alone did not fulfill God's design of a creature in His image. The relation of man and woman together is necessary. Because God is echad and not a radical unity? Jesus said the Father is "greater." Does this mean superior? Or are we stuck in a sinful state that sees authority and power as superior in terms of threats to our own power (as in warfare).

Julia Gwin said...

Having trouble leaving comment. Sorry for double post.