"In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control." ~Paul, 1 Timothy 2:9-15
In the last post, I briefly relayed some of the difficulties of 1 Timothy 2:9-15. In this post I aim to place these verses within their cultural and situational context. Not only do these verses make much more sense viewed in this light, but they fit within the larger context of 1 Timothy and the rest of the Bible.
As shown in a previous post, the prevailing theme of 1 Timothy is standing against false teaching. But what were these false teachings? Even though we do not have Timothy's letters to Paul explaining the details of the situation at Ephesus, there is an ample amount of context clues, historical evidence, and other biblical records to reconstruct the basic scenario at Ephesus at the time of Paul's letter. Let's start with context clues:
In 1 Timothy 1:3-4, Paul tells Timothy to put a stop to certain "men" (the Greek word here is tisin and means "ones," not men. It's gender neutral) from teaching false doctrines and to rebuke them for devoting themselves to "myths" and "endless genealogies." In 1 Timothy 1:6-7, Paul describes those who have turned aside to fruitless discussions, "wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions." Paul then launches into a corrective teaching on the proper use and purpose of the law, sin, the mercy, grace, and forgiveness of the Lord, and takes great care to point out that God is King, eternal, invisible, and the only God. It is obvious Paul is countering the false teaching Timothy is battling in Ephesus by reiterating the true teaching of the gospel.
Ephesus was a decadent Asian city, whose focal point was the fertility goddess, Artemis. The Romans called her Diana. Artemis is said to be the twin of Apollo and the daughter of Zeus and Leto. The cult of Artemis was particularly alluring for women because Artemis was believed to protect her female worshippers during and after childbirth. Plus, women were viewed as superior to men, possessing secret divine knowledge. Men were drawn to this cult as well because sex was part of the worship rituals, where men would receive divine knowledge through engaging in sexual rituals with female priestesses.
Verses 9-10 admonishes women to dress modestly and appropriately for women professing godliness. He tells them to avoid braided hair, gold, pearls and expensive clothing. This is another context clue that hints toward the women of Ephesus being influenced by the cult of Artemis, for the priestesses would wear elaborate, braided hairstyles and adorn themselves with extravagant jewelry and attire. Paul makes a curious statement when he classifies this type of extravagant attire as inappropriate for women "professing" godliness, which could mean he questioned the sincerity of these women's faith to begin with.
Next post will examine the original Greek words of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 Modern translations are misleading to say the least.