35: Adam, then Eve
Part 6 in a series on gender, power and hierarchy. Nate and Tim wrap up the discussion on 1 Timothy 2, discussing Paul’s reference to Adam being created first and the concluding line about women being saved through childbirth. Is this Paul rooting patriarchy in “God’s creation order” or is Paul once again saying the exact opposite of what it sounds like he’s saying?
Nate: Alright, welcome back to Almost Heretical. We are doing a series right now on Paul and gender and gender roles and the church and the Bible and what it has to say about all this, and maybe we’ve mistaken the whole thing and got it all backwards. That’s what we’re looking at right now, so if you haven’t listened to the other episodes in the series, you’ll probably want to do that, specifically the one right before this because that’s part one of two parts inside of six parts so far, and there’s probably more coming. So if that doesn’t make sense, it’s fine. Just go look at your podcast app and it’ll all be clear. Anyways, we’re jumping back in this week—
Tim: Just in case, that didn’t make sense, it’s the first patty on the double whopper.
Nate: Oh, yeah. If you don’t know what that means, you need to listen to the previous episode. At least the previous episode! Maybe the previous five. Okay, last time we were talking about 1 Timothy 2 and we didn’t have enough time, so here’s part two of 1 Timothy 2.
Tim: Why don’t we just re-read verses 11-15 so it’s fresh with people, the few verses we were talking about, and then we’ll jump in from there.
Nate: Okay, so 1 Timothy 2:11-15
11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
Nate: Oookay. As a pastor I always felt there was only one way to teach this without trying to make Paul say what I want him to say, which leaves a lot of people saying, “Okay, then, I’m just done with Paul.” But you brought up that this is largely because of how this has been translated into English, and that Paul probably isn’t talking about in the church here, but actually in the home. Because he says, “... not permit a woman to teach or assume authority over a man.” Not, “Over men.” And he doesn’t say, “In your gatherings,” which would be really easy to add on here. Basically you shared that we often miss the point of what Paul is saying. So that’s what we talked about last time.
Tim: Yep. And I tried to articulate a summary, as short as I could, of the context of what the heck Paul’s even talking about here, why he’s even writing to Timothy in the first place. That clearly has to do with false teachers and false teachings, and we looked at how a significant amount of evidence shows that there’s some issue related to men where these teachings are leading to anger and fighting, but there’s potentially an even bigger issue with women who are being preyed upon by deceitful religious authorities. And then the women themselves, many of them are sort of propagating this false idea that has something to do with sexuality, reproduction, marriage, the goddess Artemis, who’s supposed to protect women from childbirth and the risks of dying during childbirth, and something to do with modesty, beauty, all that. So to rearticulate, I’m not sure how good a job I did the first time, we basically talked about three options for what Paul actually means when he says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or assume authority over a man.” We talked about that word, authentein. We said basically option one is that women are essentially revolting against men, denying marriage and sex and asserting themselves as the dominant gender, which is basically just reversing the power differential. So there’s inequity, injustice, and they’re just trying to flip the table so that they are on top of the power scheme.
Nate: Basically the same injustice would exist, it would just be on the other side. And Paul’s saying, “No, don’t do that.”
Tim: Possibly, yeah. And that potentially being related to this idea that they’re teaching that the resurrection already happened, that the end times had already arrived. Option two is that this authority is somehow sexual in nature and that women are basically sexually establishing themselves as the authority over their husbands. Option three is that the women are acting as the true teaching authorities on issues involving sex and reproduction by dominating with false teachings about creation and resurrection. And what we’ll see is something to do with that third option or something akin to it—
Nate: I don’t fully get that. Say it one more time?
Tim: One realm of possibility of what is happening that Paul is addressing, and it could be a combination of all three of these, I should say that—there’s something going on with a kind of revolt with women in Ephesus that has to do with a set of ideas related likely to Artemis and the cult of Artemis and reproduction and marriage, and even Christian eschatology. It’s possible that that’s leading women to stage a kind of sexual revolt. In some ways, that’s definitely true.
Nate: Oh, right, right. So they’re saying, “We’re not going to have sex; we’re not going to have babies. We’re signing this pact. We’re not getting married again.”
Tim: But there’s also the possibility that as a part of this sort of ideological revolution that women have positioned themselves as the only true teaching authorities. Essentially again, a form of enacting a reversal, where they’re undoing patriarchy by just establishing themselves in this role.
Nate: And teaching authorities, would that be in the church? In the home? Where would that be? If they were doing that, where would they be trying to take back the reins? Is that in the home or in the church?
Tim: Yeah, gotcha. Well, all of this would be related to all of the little clues that we walked through last time, where Paul is acknowledging almost in every other chapter through 1 & 2 Timothy what it is that the false teaching is, who’s doing these false teachings, and the ramifications of it. So remember, one of the things he stated is that men were coming into households and taking advantage of gullible women. Two was that women, for instance the widows who don’t want to get married, are basically sitting around like busybodies just gossiping and kind of sharing these rumors or these ideas, these ideological systems around with other women, and then Paul used the metaphor in 2 Timothy of this spreading like gangrene. So it seems like there’s some level in which there are intentional predatorial, I almost get the picture of a guy starting a cult, and he’s trying to groom people to his little religious sect, but then there are whole bunch of people who are just perpetuating these ideas around the community. And that would have been especially true amongst women, who would have been a part of basically a female social network. And that’s sort of the idea you get from this notion of old wives’ tales, is there’s social network amongst women with elderly women at the top who are sort of the authorities in that world.
Nate: Ephesus Book?
Tim: I don’t get it.
Nate: [sighing] Like Facebook.
Tim: Oh. Okay. Now I get it. C+
Nate: [laughing] Okay, okay, okay.
Tim: So there are some scholars that have made the case that there’s some version of an alternative creation story that would have been taking some ideas from the Artemis cult, mixing them with pieces of theology, and changing the story to essentially establish women as dominant in society. So again, we can’t know for certain what exactly these false teachings were. We just have the clues. But I think some takeaways as we move forward and look at the next couple verses in this line are that there’s the possibility both of women trying to domineer men, and in some ways we know that’s happening in the sense that they have refused to— they’ve prohibited marriage, and some of the widows are refusing to marry. But it’s possible that that’s even taken a form of them establishing themselves as basically the only teaching authorities in this cult, ideological world, whatever they would call it, basically within this set of idea, that women are the rulers, if that makes sense. So there’s potentially multiple ways in which women are, again this word authentein, trying to domineer, establish themselves as masters over men. And it’s possible that one of those ways is in teaching ideas, which would be part of why Paul says, “You shouldn’t teach, and you should be quiet.” It might actually be somewhat parallel to what we looked at in 1 Corinthians 14, where Paul tells women to be silent in the churches, which we showed can’t mean that he just thinks no women should ever be able to talk in Christian gatherings, because he had just finished telling women to stand up and prophesy in the gathering. And the best possible explanation is that women were essentially interrupting the gatherings. And Tom Schreiner, by the way, who’s a hardcore complementarian, actually agrees that that’s probably what was happening, is that the women were basically asking a bunch of questions, interrupting, because they were behind in their education, because they weren’t allowed to be educated. And so Paul gives a situational direction to say, “Hey, stop interrupting here. Go home and talk to your husbands.” It’s possible that in 1 Timothy 2, there’s a kind of parallel where he’s saying, “You guys are trying to assert yourselves as teachers in a way where you’re basically just perpetuating a bunch of crazy ideas. So right now I want you guys to just stop teaching and be quiet.” Does that make sense?
Nate: Hmm. Yeah. So Paul’s not telling them to necessarily not talk in church, because he said, “Everyone whoever prophesies or whatever, do that. Do that thing.” Not just, “Hey, just the men prophesy.” So he says everyone. So if he says this, he’s probably talking about, “Go home and talk to your husbands because your education is lower and you’re just kind of distracting in the church gathering if you’re kind of behind on what we’re talking about. So go home and talk to your husbands who are educated.” Yeah?
Tim: Uh, possibly. Look at verse 11, where our trouble passages start. It says, “A woman,” or as Westfall argues, it should probably be construed wife in the context of the Christian household or husband/wife relationships, “A wife should learn in quietness and full submission.” So he’s starting off by saying, pretty similar to 1 Corinthians 14, “You need to learn.” In 1 Corinthians 14 we said probably the situation is that they’re essentially remedial in their education, and so they need to catch up. Here the whole context is that people have been captivated by all sort of wild ideas and potentially now are promoting those ideas as the teachers of these false teachings, false doctrines. So Paul’s basically saying, “Stop teaching. You need to go learn. You think you know.” And he actually says, where is it? I think it’s later in 2 Timothy, when he talks about people who put themselves out there as teachers, but they’re basically conceited and they don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s possible, basically, that he’s essentially saying, “Slow down. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Stop teaching, sit down, learn for a little bit. You guys need to be in submission.”
Nate: See, the thing I don’t like about that is that that makes it sound like it’s all about having the correct doctrine, so if people—which I don’t think that Paul is all about. So if he’s telling, it seems like a contradiction there if he’s saying, “You guys don’t talk because you don’t know enough doctrine and theology in order to say anything worthwhile in this group.” You know what I mean?
Tim: Yeah, I totally get that. And that’s why I just think we are so far away from this world in modern western world. Interesting background for all this study on 1 & 2 Timothy. We don’t have time to get into all of it, but the book of Acts talks about Ephesus, and it talks about the cult of Artemis in Ephesus. So if you remember in Acts 19 & 20, you guys can go read it later, there’s the crazy story where basically Paul’s ministry interrupts the Ephesus Artemis worship, cultic practices, to the point where in 19:19 it says, “A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.” This is a world where people, Christians, are mixing up what we would call magic, sorcery, literally using scrolls and chants and phrases to try to call on the goddess Artemis. And specifically women would have doing this when they were getting ready to go into labor to protect them. This is the world they live in where ministry affects the economy so much that everybody burns their magic scrolls? This is very different than the world we live in, where people feel like you just have to be certain of every nuance of Calvinistic doctrine. That’s not where we’re at right now. We’re talking about like blending Jesus with Artemis, and then saying that the resurrection and the final Day of the Lord has already happened and we’re living in the eternal kingdom as divine spirits. These are big.
Nate: Not like the basic fundamental Christianity.
Tim: Yeah, this is not Paul being nitpicky. And that’s what I think is ironic, is most of the places people go to assert this sense of like, “We have to protect doctrine!” they go to 1 & 2 Timothy to get their ammunition for that, because here they just hear Paul talking about doctrine, doctrine, doctrine. So they just think, “Oh, this is about smothering and snuffing out anything that sniffs of unhealthy doctrine.” Paul and Timothy are dealing with wild crazy crap, you know? Like, Paul literally was dealing with stuff in 1 Corinthians like incest in the church and people taking advantage of one another at communion, and this is a way bigger issue, where Paul says, “No, Timothy, you actually have to stay in Ephesus and deal with this stuff.”
Nate: Right, right. Okay.
Tim: Okay, so verse 13, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” Talk to me, Nate.
Nate: [sighing] Um, I’ve always kind of heard, and no one will say it because it sounds really bad, but basically she was the one that was duped, and so we can’t have her teaching because she’s not capable of as great of mental capacities as the man. Do you think that’s too far? I feel like that’s sort of what was implied. If you don’t speak the opposite of that, if you don’t speak out and explain what it actually means then, that’s just what’s implied by this verse and the silence, I guess, around this verse. But essentially it’s like, yeah, exactly what it says is exactly how it’s been used, I feel.
Tim: Yeah. And I mean, people have, many people throughout church history have actually stated that explicitly. Basically just blatant sexism, that this is pointing to Eve as a foundation for women’s inferiority, especially in terms of they’re more easily deceived or more vulnerable to deception.
Nate: I mean these two verses, when you put them together, it’s basically the like, “Shut up, stay in the kitchen,” type of verse. “Just have babies and do what you’re good at.” It’s just terrible.
Tim: Yeah. So one of the things that makes me feel crazy is now I can’t help but read these verses as being obviously stating the opposite. But I know from my own personal experience what it feels like to read these verses and be like, “This is nothing other than Paul being a sexist jerk.”
Tim: Like, I know what it feels like to stare at these same passages and feel like that’s the only interpretive option.
Nate: I think that’s going to be a hard thing to convince people of, just because of how these are always used. And so many people just want to move beyond Paul and they’re kind of done, and he is that sexist jerk and we—this is what we talk about when we talk about giving the Bible back to you. There’s another way to look at this and it doesn’t leave Paul as someone we can just throw out, but may be actually a champion here. Anyways, let’s do that.
Tim: Yeah, so let’s do it. My goal is to make it so that at the end of this podcast, you feel like I do, which is you read these verses and you can’t fathom how we always thought these meant Paul was reinforcing patriarchy and male dominance and sexism. Which, I apologize ahead of time, will make you feel crazy when then you go talk to people like your past self and they think that’s the only way to interpret it. But that’s the goal. So here’s what we’re going to do. Real quick, let’s recap how and why Paul refers back to Genesis 1-3 in conversations about gender throughout all of his work, okay? Because there’s an assumption, and it’s stated explicitly with people like Schreiner. I heard this argument all the time in seminary.
Nate: That he’s going back to Genesis in order to show the true nature of man and woman and these roles, right? Like it’s from creation.
Tim: Exactly, yeah. It’s said that Paul was rooting gender hierarchy in creation, in creational order, in the creational mandate. So let’s just take a survey and see if Paul does anything like that even one time. Okay, 1 Corinthians 11, we already covered this. Paul referenced that man comes from woman and Eve came from Adam, both of those are true, in order for him to assert the mutual dependence of the man and the woman and to explicitly subvert patriarchy, giving women authority over their own heads. Remember, that was basically, you basically have this interesting nuance in the Genesis story, which is that Eve comes from Adam, but men come from women. And he took the fact of those two ideas rooted in Genesis and said, “Look guys, if you’re going to call anything a creational order, it’s that there is mutual dependence and therefore mutual submission in the body, and therefore women should have authority over their own bodies rather than men keeping the authority that society gives them.” Okay, number two. In 2 Corinthians 11, he references Eve’s being deceived by the serpent, just like we see here, but it’s a warning to the entire church not to be deceived and led astray. So in other words, he uses Eve’s failure as an example to everyone. It has nothing to do with gender. He just looks back and he sees, “Oh, this event happened in one of the first pages of the Bible, where a person was deceived by the serpent and terrible things happened as a result. Guys, be careful. Don’t be careful.” Has nothing to do with gender. Ephesians 5, we looked at this one already, he references the line in Genesis 2 that says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.” And he does this in order to reinforce that husbands and wives are mutually dependent parts of one body bonded by sex and marriage and therefore should submit to one another. So once again he points to a part of Genesis 1-3 to undermine patriarchy and the claims of male priority and male privilege and male power. Has nothing to do with saying there’s some creational patriarchal order. He does a similar thing in 1 Corinthians 6 where he talks about sex with prostitutes and he rebukes it saying, using this same passage, that, “When two people, a husband and a wife, leave their father and mother, have sex, they become one flesh, so don’t you know that this will make you one flesh with a prostitute, and you are the temple of the Holy Spirit, so don’t do that thing.” Okay, so up until now, in all of Paul’s writings, he’s used Genesis 1, 2, & 3 to do the exact opposite of how most everyone suggests he’s using it here. In fact he uses the creation stories to add scripture as authority to rebuke the same kind of patriarchal ideas that complementarians want to say Paul is going to those same scriptures to enforce here. He’s going to Genesis 1-3 to undermine what Tom Schreiner and John Piper and Wayne Grudem are saying he’s here going to Genesis 2 to prove. It’s completely backwards!
Nate: Right. And so if you’re holding those together, there’s basically no way to hold them together.
Tim: Correct, which can help get us quickly on the trajectory of seeing that the exact same thing is true here. Paul isn’t referencing the Adam and Eve story to support patriarchy, he’s referencing it to undermine patriarchy. Here’s the thing that in seminary just drove me crazy. There was a simple assumption, and I think the leaders that we’ve been critical of make this assumption and share this and say that we should all make this assumption, but I honestly think most of us are guilty of it, is we just think first equals superior. Like we just assume that that’s what Paul is saying. So the reason why you say it’s so hard to read this and not think that Paul’s being a jerk is we just assume why else would you say that Adam was formed first if not to say that Adam is superior and therefore has authority over Eve?
Nate: Right. Well yeah, why else? I really don’t know why you would say that.
Tim: So we’ll get into that and I’ll answer that in a second, but the first thing is like, Paul’s a really good Bible reader. Like really good. Way better than most everyone who’s been alive since. And probably a lot of people out there know, if you’ve read Genesis and any sort of careful literary study, you know that one of the predominant themes of the first book of the Bible is what scholars and Bible nerds call the reversal of primogeniture. It’s this whole theme that society in the ancient Near East said that whoever was born first was automatically granted superiority and the keys to the kingdom in that family. And what do you see over and over and over again is these literary depictions of that being reversed and the second born, the younger or the runt like David gets thrown in the position that the first born is supposed to have. And it’s literally a theme that starts in the first chapter of the Bible, ends up getting escalated all the way through, that is God’s judgment on the social structures and hierarchies of the world’s cultures by intentionally raising up the little unexpected people like Joseph at the expense of the firstborns, those who are supposed to be exalted. This idea actually gets expanded and summarized in the idea that God exalts the humble and brings down the mighty. And Jesus basically passes this baton forward and says the first will be last. So literally from Genesis, the same book of the Bible we’re saying Paul is looking at right here, the biblical theme is established that first does not equal superior. So I just gotta know that if I, Paul knew that. You know what I mean? He read the Old Testament way better than I do. So first piece is we should just be skeptical of that idea. And secondly, as Christians, we should realize that idea is antithetical to Christianity. And it’s antithetical to Paul’s gospel. And we keep talking about how power overlaps with gender. Everywhere, Paul is saying those that society deems weak, we exalt and we give special honor.
Tim: So the idea that to Paul’s mind, first equals superior? It’s actually backward. If Paul thought the Old Testament said Adam was formed first, and then Eve, and therefore Adam was superior—which, by the way, the Old Testament doesn’t say that—but if Paul thought that’s what the Old Testament was saying, I bet what we would see is Paul saying, “And now, through Jesus, we understand that the first will be last and the last will be first.”
Tim: So that’s just piece number one, is we should question that whole logic. But then let’s look more carefully at what Paul’s actually doing in Genesis 2. So Nate, I’m going to Bible quiz you here real quick.
Nate: Alright, let’s do it.
Tim: So Genesis 1, God creates what person?
Nate: Man. adam.
Tim: Right. Just man. No Eve. And then you have Genesis 2, who does God create?
Nate: Man, and then forms Eve out of man?
Tim: Yep. And what really important thing happens in between God creating adam and God creating the woman, adamah?
Nate: Doesn’t He have him name all the animals, and no suitable helper was found, and then He forms Eve?
Tim: Yeah, and with that, he’s given the job. He puts him in the garden of Eden to work it and take care of it, verse 15. And verse 16, “The LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’” The very next verse is, “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” Okay, so what is Paul noticing in Genesis 2 in terms of the order of creation?
Nate: Man was formed first and given the command first.
Tim: Which means? It’s not just that he was given the command first. He was given the command before Eve existed. And he’s given the command in singular, “You, Adam, are not supposed to eat from the tree.” Which means what Paul’s noticing, and he reads the Old Testament as someone with a lot more literary savvy than most of us have been trained to read the Old Testament, he’s seeing all the symbolism.
Nate: Oh, okay, so Adam didn’t give that information to Eve, or didn’t tell it in a good enough way to keep her from eating?
Tim: Well, so do you remember there’s the story that everybody, or a lot of people, notice and feel like there’s got to be some significance is when the serpent approaches Eve and tries to deceive Eve, the serpent says to the woman, “‘Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, “You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.”’” Have you ever heard people that basically focus on, “Oh, something’s happening here because the way Eve just rearticulated the prohibition is technically incorrect.”
Nate: Because God never said, “Don’t touch it.”
Tim: Exactly, she added something to it, right?
Tim: So think about it. So Paul knows—
Nate: Okay. Adam was getting his Pharisee on, basically. Adding rules.
Tim: [laughing] Maybe. But it leaves room for interpretation, right? Like, it doesn’t say Adam added to the prohibitions. It doesn’t say that. That might be what it’s implying. It just says God gave a prohibition to Adam for him not to eat from the tree, then He creates Eve, then the serpent comes and asks Eve what God said, and Eve repeats back a version of the prohibition given to Adam, but it’s slightly off.
Nate: I think we always think of that kind of stuff like, “Oh, it’s a bit later, so they probably just said it a little differently this time in the story,” but it’s not that much later. It’s not that many verses later. And whoever’s writing this, they were smart, they were putting it all together, they could see, probably on the same page, they could see that they weren’t the same things that they were writing.
Tim: Yeah, I mean, I hate to keep picking on him, but Tom Schreiner literally is like a biblical scholar. He’s got ultimate cred in this world, especially in complementarian world. He literally says like, “She wasn’t off by that much, I don’t see what the big deal was.” But Paul reads way more carefully than that. So think about this. The command’s given to Adam, like we said, and then potentially what there’s room for interpretation on here is maybe Adam didn’t do a very good job teaching Eve the command.
Nate: Right. It’s like a game of Telephone.
Tim: [laughing] Yeah, possibly. But then there’s some other interesting pieces here. For one, the motives given for Eve eating the fruit aren’t intrinsically bad. So chapter 3 verse 6 says, “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.” So first of all let me just point out, this is always presented as this rebellion, right? This like overt rebellion against God. That is not how Genesis 3:6 depicts Eve’s motivations for eating the fruit. It says she saw that it was good for food, it was pleasant to look at it, and it would give her wisdom, which is a good thing. Wisdom is praised throughout the Bible. But then it gets more interesting. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. And then, it’s really interesting. So get this. Eve already ate the fruit, right?
Tim: She took some and ate it. But it’s not until she gives the fruit to Adam and he eats it that the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized they were naked.
Tim: So right there you have a little clue of maybe actually the real issue here is what Adam does.
Tim: And then you have another piece where God comes down, calls the man. Says, “Where are you?” He answers, “I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” And He said, “Who told you you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” And the man says, “The woman you put here with me, she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the LORD God said, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” And then you get the curses. And what’s fascinating is then you go down to verse 17 and it says, “To Adam, He [God] said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, “You must not eat from it,”’” the ground is cursed. There’s painful toil, all that. Are you kind of picking up what I’m alluding to here?
Nate: Well, yeah, but how else would God have said—He could have just said, “You must not eat from it.” When He was saying, “The tree I commanded that you must not eat from it,” instead of… I mean it’d be kind of weird to say, “The tree commanded that you all and everyone after you shouldn’t eat from,” You know? So that to me isn’t a big enough clue, but the fact that it wasn’t until she gave to him… Okay, so did he know that he was eating from that tree? Or was he deceived, too?
Tim: So okay. Here’s another clue. We’ll go back to Paul in 1 Timothy.
Nate: Lots of questions.
Tim: So what I’m suggesting and kind of trying to work out here is Paul’s just doing what we all should be doing. He’s just reading the Old Testament really carefully to find as much wisdom in there for it. And he’s not even saying this is the rule. He’s taking wisdom and lessons creatively, almost—almost—allegorically or figuratively, and then he’s applying them. So what he sees is Adam’s created first, and then Eve, and therefore Adam was given the law, which by the way, you can go do some Old Testament research. One of my favorite books is a book I read recently called Adam as Israel by a guy named Seth Postell, talking about how clearly these chapters are depicting Adam as a symbol for Israel and for Moses as the priest in Israel, and as the priest, he is given the law. Right? Like Moses at Sinai. And there’s a sense in which Eve represents women in general, but also Eve kind of represents the next generation of Israelites. Right, remember all those lines in Deuteronomy that talk about one of the main things Israelites have to do is take this law and pass it onto the next generation, right?
Nate: Right, right.
Tim: They’re supposed to teach well, right, so the next generation won’t misunderstand the law?
Tim: There’s a sense in which this whole scene is typologically just foreshadowing what’s going to happen in Israel’s history. It’s creating this picture where Eve—er, sorry. It’s creating this picture where Adam as the priest receives the law, is supposed to teach it effectively to Eve for her own well being. It’s creating the possibility that either Adam failed or Eve failed. It doesn’t really explain, right? We just have this oddity where Eve doesn’t articulate it back. But then the serpent comes to deceive Eve, and the serpent also presents a false idea about what’s true. So the serpent represents a kind of false teacher, and we’ll see through the Old Testament, the serpent represents basically the outsider in the land who the people of Israel are supposed to get rid of to keep from falling into temptation of worshipping other gods. The serpent is Canaan, basically. Canaanites. So Paul’s reading this. He’s going, “Oh yeah, I get it. This is all creating this symbolic picture where bad teaching sets someone up to be deceived by someone who is a serpent”—
Tim: —“who is intentionally trying to deceive people.” The fact that Eve is created second means she didn’t receive the law directly from God, and she was potentially the victim of bad teaching from the man who represents the teacher, and the victim of predatory false teaching deception by the serpent, and therefore, she made a mistake that led to disastrous consequences. And Paul’s looking at this story and saying, “Guys, can you not see this story is analogous to the situation here? Learn from it! Learn from it!” So what’s fascinating, there’s evidence that this is what he’s doing all over the place. So for one, Paul receives, or Paul explicitly refers to the false teachers as Satan! So this is why twice in 2 Timothy, in 2:26 and in 3:7, Paul explicitly compares the false teachers who are preying on women to the devil setting snares to entrap vulnerable women. What’s he doing? He’s reading the Bible in a really fascinating and creative way, and again, we’ll have to talk about this later, I think the way you’re supposed to read the Old Testament. And he’s saying, “Look, these creeps who are creeping into houses and passing along these ideas, intentionally trying to deceive women? They’re like the serpent in Genesis! And these people, women actually, who are perpetuating these false ideas, they’re actually like Adam! They’re doing a bad job teaching! And the women who are falling prey are like Eve.” And that point has nothing to do with the inferiority or superiority of either gender. And actually, if you think about it, what Paul is saying is that—
Nate: It’s saying that men are—or man, at least in that case—was weaker because he didn’t teach correctly. He didn’t pass on the information that needed to be passed on. Not the woman. If anyone’s “at fault” in that situation, Paul would be saying it was Adam that was at fault.
Tim: Exactly. And this is something that I really didn’t see until I read Westfall’s book. And she actually pulls from James Dunn, who’s a famous scholar, New Testament scholar, who points this out that there are a few different words in the New Testament in Greek used for sin. And there’s one word, the more common word is hamartia, and there’s another one paraptoma, but there’s a specific word, parabasis. And we don’t all need to learn Greek. The reason I’m sharing this is this other word, it’s only used five times in the New Testament, and it always has the connotation of specifically breaking the law, violating the law. And so a good example of this is the logic you can see in Romans 4, where he says that everyone sins but, “Where there is no law, there is no transgression [or no violation].” That’s the word parabasis. It’s a word that specifically means to violate the law. And that’s the word he uses here.
Nate: Ah, gotcha. So would this be like an example of like… okay so it’s probably bad to drive at 90 miles an hour down the road. But if there’s, if you’re on the autobahn or whatever in Germany, you’re not breaking any law going 90. But if I’m going 90 on a road where it’s 55, then I actually am breaking the law. So if that law wasn’t there, there would be no transgression for my sin, my bad idea of going that fast, but when there is a law, then yeah.
Tim: Yeah, there would be no violation.
Tim: That’s Paul’s logic in Romans. Paul’s logic here though—so it’s also, it’s grammatical, we don’t need to get into the details, but there’s this perfect tense construction, which basically should be translated, “It was the woman who was deceived and came into violation.” So the point being made is that the woman only broke the law because she was deceived. But why did Adam break the law? And what did Adam do?
Tim: Adam willfully, consciously disobeyed God. Adam knew, was given the law directly. Eve wasn’t. It’s not even actually clear in Genesis whether the law was given to Eve. Right? And that’s why I was pointing out, their eyes aren’t opened, shame doesn’t happen, the fall doesn’t occur until Adam eats the fruit. So there’s a possibility that Eve was allowed to eat of that tree. That’s left open in Genesis for interpretation. What’s very clear is that actually Adam is guilty of a greater violation, and that is why where, in all the verses we point to in talking about original sin in Romans and 1 Corinthians, Paul is very clear that sin came through Adam. So elsewhere Paul actually is perfectly comfortable blaming sin, blaming the fall, on Adam. So his point here is not to blame Eve. Right? Although that’s been done for a long time in church history, basically to support the suppression and subjugation of women. His point is not to do that; it’s to do the opposite. He’s saying Eve was less guilty. Adam was the one knew forthright; Eve was the one who was a victim of deceit. But his point isn’t to make some abstract case about who was more guilty in the fall. His point is to use that story to have some edifying teaching purpose for Timothy to give to the church in Ephesus, which is to basically give the same warning that he gave in 1 Corinthians, which is, “Just like Eve can be deceived even in paradise, you can be deceived too.”
Nate: Hmm. Right, right.
Tim: “So don’t be deceived.”
Nate: Okay. That makes sense. That blows your mind a little bit about what this is saying here. And even going back to the Adam and Eve story, it just makes me think about it in a completely different way than I always have.
Tim: Yep, totally. Okay, let me add one more piece of evidence for people who aren’t totally convinced. And this was the piece that tipped me over the edge.
Tim: In the same letter, 1 Timothy, Paul in two other places makes an example of people being deceived, and the first one is him. So in 1:13, he says, “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.” So what is his point here? Because he was ignorant—
Nate: He’s saying he didn’t know any better. Just like Eve didn’t know any better. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Tim: Exactly. And then in 5:7 in the context of widows, he says, “Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame.” In other words, it’s very clear that in Paul’s head, education correlates with responsibility. And a lack of education correlates with the potential for being totally destroyed by deception. Can you see that? In chapter 1 he references himself, in chapter 2 he references these women, in chapter 5 he references these widows, and there’s a logic that’s consistent through all of it which is that blame is just logically correlated with knowledge, right? With knowhow. Those who know and disobey are guilty of a greater sin than those who are being deceived. But his basic point is, “Don’t let these people, especially these women, these widows, don’t let them be deceived. Don’t let them be poorly taught, because if they’re poorly taught, then they’re going to fall prey to even worse ideas.” Which is the whole reason Paul sends Timothy there to do a bunch of teaching and why he dwells so much on doctrine.
Nate: And he’s not just talking about, they’re going to pick up some really bad ideas, some bad doctrine, then they’re going to be off in their head a little bit. Then they won’t be able to do as good of Bible study. He’s talking about real life, they’re going to have some really bad ideas that are going to have real-world implications.
Tim: Yeah, Paul’s not saying, “All of you need to be theological experts who are absolutely certain in these 112 points on Christian doctrine.” He’s actually showing great empathy for the most vulnerable people in the society. Ideological dominance, ideological abuse is real, right? Especially in a culture before the internet, before Twitter, before easy access to information. Paul’s showing basically great concern for the most vulnerable people in the church who are being preyed upon ideologically.
Nate: That’s like, do you remember when you’d be having a conversation with someone and they would say a fact or a number, this is before cell phones, so I don’t know how many people can go back there, but if you remember before cell phones were right at your fingertips, you would just have to try, if they said it confidently and they threw out that number, you’re like, “Okay, yeah.” You could potentially go and repeat that to someone else. Now what we all do is we just pull our phone out and be like, “Ah, he’s right,” or “He’s wrong, it was 1952,” or whatever. But it’s kind of like that.
Nate: But you kind of have to put yourself in that mindset, that’s how the world was way more so even. They didn’t, access to information is such a huge thing that we take for granted now. But when that’s not the case, you just kind of trust the people around you.
Tim: Totally. And there’s one piece in James Dunn’s study that just made this stand out to me. He was pointing out that what Paul’s doing here is very clearly and explicitly engaging in what was an ongoing popular Jewish debate over who was to blame for the fall. So there’s a very popular Second Temple text called the book of Sirach. And in Sirach 25:24, it says, “From a woman sin had its beginning, and because of her we all die.” So I know there are still hiccups with Paul, and there are still things that we’ve gotta work through, and I’m not trying to be the guy that’s just happy clappy, “Paul’s great, just ignore all of your tensions.” I’m not saying that. But Paul has been so misunderstood and misconstrued as being the misogynist, sexist, bigoted guy we all fear and hate, right? Wrongfully. He’s actually, in this situation, explicitly disagreeing and blaming Adam for the fall in a context that has to do with gender and gender issues. He is not saying, “You’re right! Hey, let me quote from Sirach here, it was the woman’s fault.” He easily could have done that! Most of the people he was talking to would have been familiar with this argument. And he takes a stance on this argument and he says it was Adam’s fault.
Nate: Don’t you always wish we could go back and be like, “Paul, can you say that one more time? Just a little bit of a different way?” You know what I mean? Like in a conversation, just be like, “Can you say that one more time just a different way?”
Tim: No, totally! That’s the theme of this series on gender, is we think that Paul is guilty of sexism and patriarchy and reinforcing the hierarchical power games of the sexist society. He’s actually just guilty of writing a text that was easily misconstrued two thousand years later. That’s what he’s guilty of. And it leads to just as many problems. Like, it doesn’t really matter what Paul meant if 99% of Christians out there think this is what he said. And I just heard a stat the other day that over 60% of evangelicals think that Paul is unequivocally complementarian. Like, we have to deal with that. But it does give us an opportunity to change something if we can show that’s actually not what he meant to say. Like that’s not actually written into Christianity, it just seems like it is.
Nate: Right, right. Okay, um we gotta wrap this up, but there’s one more thing I have to know. Verse 15, “[W]omen will be saved through childbearing—” What does that mean? What does ‘saved’ mean? “[I]f they continue in faith, love, holiness with propriety.” Why do they have to continue, I don’t get how does that tie in to all of this?
Tim: Yep. This is another place where I thought Westfall was just brilliant and changed the game. And honestly the bar of scholarship on the topic of gender has been set by her, and if they want to debate this and basically reinforce complementarian theology, they’ve got to deal with her argument. So the first piece is to just say that that line, it’s very clearly the conclusion to Paul’s statement. We basically want to separate because we don’t know what it means.
Nate: It starts with, “But.” It’s gotta be a continuation.
Tim: Yeah, it’s the concluding thought to this section where he’s giving men an exhortation and then women an exhortation, dealing with the unique issues related to each gender in the community. If you want a quick rundown of the things that people have said this could mean over history. Basically one, this is talking about the so-called protoevangelion in Genesis 3 saying that the seed of the woman will defeat the seed of the serpent, and this basically means that through women—
Nate: Right, I’ve heard that. Yeah.
Tim: Problem with that is this is talking in the future tense, and supposedly if the birth of Jesus is what will do that, that already happened. Okay. Big glaring hole there. Second one is the most egregious ideology you’ll ever hear, which is that Christian women—basically how a lot of people I think subconsciously read this. Some are willing to say it; some are scared to say it but they think it.
Nate: They just need to make babies because that’s what they’re good at.
Tim: Yeah, is basically that the prior two verses about how Adam was formed first then Eve; and Adam wasn’t deceived, the woman was deceived, is interpreted as Paul blaming the fall on women and therefore there is an extra stipulation to how women can be saved as Christians. Like receive eternal salvation.
Nate: Oh, geez. Yeah, I don’t even know if I’ve heard that one.
Tim: Yep. Okay, so here’s the deal. So the reason we spent all the time in the last episode getting into the context and looking at the really big idea, which is that in Ephesus it’s the world capital of the god of protection during childbearing—can we see an important parallel here? What Paul is doing, clearly, is he’s acknowledging that these women in Ephesus that he’s addressing with what seems like a call to submission and to silence, he’s addressing that one of their primary concerns is that they’re going to die from having to bear children. In the ancient world where you don’t modern medicine and many women die, it’s an incredibly terrifying experience. And they, like we talked about, don’t have the power to decide whether or not they get pregnant, whether or not they have sex. That is in the man’s control in the Greco-Roman world. Paul is basically again, he’s way more empathetic than we think to see here. What he’s doing is he’s acknowledging their fear, which is very legitimate, he’s acknowledging their desire, to not want to die or face the risk of dying in giving birth, and here’s why I connect it. There’s some sort of synchronistic teaching going on that is blending this idea of looking to Artemis to be saved from dying while giving birth to children with some view of Christianity and the resurrection having already happened and the prohibition of marriage to keep oneself from getting pregnant. Can you see? The reason women, the primary reason women would want to refrain from marriage was so they wouldn’t be subjected to getting pregnant and therefore wouldn’t have to worry about dying. So they’re living, the women he’s addressing are Christian women living in the world capital of looking to Artemis for help in childbearing, and here’s what he says. It’s similar, remember you asked, “Why would he tell the widows to get married?”
Nate: Right, right.
Tim: He’s rebuking the idea based on all this system of false teaching, however it was construed, that the main way women should protect themselves is to buck the whole marriage system, seize their own power and dominance over men, tell their own versions of creation and how the world came to be, and refuse to have any sexual contact with men. He’s saying, “Don’t do that, but not because I don’t empathize with your experience and don’t care if you die during childbirth or because it’s just your God-ordained gender role to produce children for your husband.” He doesn’t say any of that crap. And here’s a piece that I just didn’t see. So if you’re reading the NIV, it says, “But women will be saved through childbearing.” It’s actually a misleading translation because that word is singular. It actually means, “But she,” or, “But the woman will be saved through childbearing—if [and then this is plural] they continue in faith, love, holiness,” and self-control is actually probably the better definition. I actually think, and this is Westfall’s point, it says the context here is husbands and wives. Paul looked to Adam and Eve to talk about a story to say basically, “Be careful because you guys can be deceived,” but then says, “Don’t lean into that teaching, which is a form of deception, for your salvation.” Instead the implication is, “Trust Yahweh, be faithful to God,” but specifically, I think this is spot on here, “they” plural wouldn’t make sense to refer to plural women. If the idea was, “But a woman will be saved through childbearing,” and then it’s referring to what she does, it would say, “[If] she continues in faith, love and holiness with self-control.”
Nate: Right, right.
Tim: The most logical understanding of the antecedent, which is the grammatical word for what the pronoun refers to, is, “husbands and wives.”
Tim: So Westfall’s point is actually, what Paul is saying is, “Women will be saved through childbearing,” which again, is a very real and legitimate concern, “If they, husbands and wives, continue as Christians in faith, love and holiness with self-control.” Which is implying, and this is just a total game-changer to me, implies that not just by magic trick are women going to be saved from this scary, very real medical threat. They will be saved by the husband participating in self-control. Now what’s the whole context here? Women being scared to be married, because if they’re married their husbands will force them to get pregnant to reproduce children for them, and that will force them to potentially die. And what Paul is doing is once again implying that the onus is on husbands to practice sexual self-control to honor—
Nate: Birth control in 1 Timothy 2!
Tim: [laughing] Exactly! The implication is that if husbands and wives practice Christian faith, love, holiness and self-control, which involves all sorts of mutual submission, self-sacrifice, serving one another, it will include sexual self-control on the part of the man out of love for the woman and not wanting to put her through a life that is basically just perpetual childbearing. So the implication is that it’s actually through the husband’s faithfulness, being a self-sacrificial person, that the wife will be saved from childbearing, and what Paul’s doing is basically saying, “Don’t look to your crazy ideas; they are going to deceive you. Look instead to all of you practicing basic Christian ethics, which is to put other people’s welfare above your own.”
Tim: “And just husbands putting your wife’s welfare above your own will save them in the way that is causing them to go out and look for these other crazy ideas and be potentially deceived as Eve was deceived by the serpent.” And so then you back up to verse 11, “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise this tyrannical authority over man. She must be quiet.” This is basically Paul saying, “Stop with the craziness. These ideas are going to hurt you guys. They’re not helping.” What’s going to help is the same thing that Paul applies in every single situation, including all of the situations in gender, which is if the people in power, husbands, actually lay down their personal rights, their personal sexual rights, out of self-sacrificial love for their wife, a lot of these problems are going to go away.
Nate: Wow. Yeah, I mean I think one thing I’ve learned through our show is whenever there’s a verse in a passage that you’re reading that just doesn’t seem like it fits with the rest, like verse 15, “But women will be saved through childbearing,” you gotta stop and focus on it, because it’s probably the key to the whole thing. Which it was in this case. And I could almost just picture getting up and giving a sermon or whatever, and you read the passage and generally at the end there’s one of these kind of verses. And you’re like, you kind of quickly speak over it because you need to get back to where you’re actually going to talk, what you’re actually going to speak on, which is something earlier in here about permitting women to have authority over a man or adorning yourself with jewelry. Those are the things that’ll preach. You know what I mean? And I’ve done that! I’ve totally done that! And I think through our show, seriously since episode 1, focusing on the passage that doesn’t fit, that doesn’t make sense, that’s where the key’s going to be to unlock the whole thing. And I think that’s what good biblical scholarship does. That’s what Cynthia Long Westfall is doing for me through you exposing that through this series.
Tim: Yeah, totally. I think that’s huge, Nate. We’ll talk, I think in the next episode, about big picture, how did we get here? And some of the hermeneutical practices that honestly I would say are egregious that some of the complementarian scholars that we mentioned who know better are doing anyway. And one of them is just the idea, for anybody whether you’re a scholar or especially for people that aren’t scholars and are just lay people reading the Bible. If you read a paragraph or a section of text in a passage, for instance in 1 Timothy 2, we’re reading five verses, and if one of the five just makes no sense to us and we can’t understand either what it says or how it relates to the rest of the paragraph, why would we think we understand the paragraph? You know what I mean?
Nate: Yeah, totally.
Tim: What I think that shows us is actually, we don’t know what he’s saying at all. It may seem like he’s saying something, but it should tell us, “You need to be incredibly humble and admit that you don’t know what this is talking about.” Until you can make cohesive explanatory sense out of at least the paragraph?! You certainly shouldn’t get up on a stage with a microphone and tell thousands and thousands of people that this is what this text means, this is what Paul was saying. And yet that’s literally exactly what we’ve done with 1 Timothy 2 for hundreds of years.
Nate: Yeah. Yeah, totally agree. I think the problem is people will work and work and work until they can fit that verse into the thing they want to simply read in the rest, the plain reading of the other part. They’ll fit that one in somehow, and that sort of leads to all the problems we have.
Tim: Don’t you think, too, a lot of it comes from how we’ve all talked about what the Bible is for? Especially with Paul, especially in protestant world. I think the idea is even the way we construct our Bibles with verse numbers and the way we memorize verses. The idea is almost like the Bible is a list of verses that we need to learn, and we separate it from the way any other communication or literature or texts would ever function. That’s just, what I just said of how you need to understand the whole picture to think you understand a part of it, that’s just basic. You don’t have to teach that. People know that. But some part of the way we’ve especially taught ourselves to read Paul as like a collection of tidbits about theology—
Nate: Doctrine and theology, yeah.
Tim: Right, that dropped from heaven. Versus a coherent, logical stream of communication. Actually, the series we did when we started the podcast on all the weird divine council, multiple gods, elohim, all that stuff, it was a similar idea. How is it we think we understand Jewish monotheism if we have basically circled a bunch of verses that we have no idea what they’re talking about and just pretended they’re not there. If our system of theology doesn’t know how to handle or account for some of the texts that are there, then clearly our system of theology isn’t correct, in terms of what the texts we’re trying to apply. I think this whole series on gender, you know, the more I did research and study and get into scholarship, the more I believe this is true. So much of this, whether it’s conscious or subconscious, is just men reinforcing what they already believe to be true by getting the text and getting the scholarship to confirm that. One of the studies I mentioned was that study on the word authentein and where it’s used, and it was basically like, the guy’s research on the way it’s been used is like, “Oh, this clearly shows that this term is positive, and it means this positive use of authority.” And it’s like, you actually look at the data that he wrote down and collected, and you’re like, “It doesn’t mean that at all! But your conclusion was already there. And so it doesn’t matter what data you approached, you were going to come out with that conclusion.” And I think the reality is, we’ve lived in a world where a bunch of dudes, and lately a bunch of white dudes, powerful religious authorities have made it so they are the only ones to make these interpretive decisions, right? How many conversations and pastors and preachers do you think have sat down with a group of women who knows what it feels like to be afraid of dying in childbirth and asked them to help interpret 1 Timothy 2:15? You know what I mean?
Tim: Had we done that for most of the last two thousand years, do you think we would have actually ended up in this place? And that’s where I just feel like there’s this cycle that’s been in place where men interpret the passages, they project their male privilege, male power, self-protective bias into the interpretation, and what comes out is an interpretation that then reinforces male privilege, male interpretation, male bias. So you get the result of, for instance, in the ESV translation committee that’s entirely male, that is also translating a Bible that is entirely male complementarian.
Nate: You made me tear up a little bit when you said the line about a pastor sitting down with a bunch of women and asking, who know what it’s like to—because I don’t even know what that feels like, but just the thought of approaching people who this is something they understand at the core of their being, that potential fear. Just that principle of doing that in lots of areas. I think I said it last week, we aren’t hearing from half the church. Not just aren’t hearing from half the church; we’re not being led by half the church. We’re not getting the interpretations from half of the church. And not just half of the church right now, but half of the church for hundreds of years. And we’re at a huge deficit because of that. Yeah. It’s tragic to me. So we’re just trying to do any part that we can to A) say we’re sorry, because we did teach this and we did believe this, but then also to take the Bible and give it back to you to show that this is not what Paul was talking about, and you don’t have to ditch Paul and the Bible and your Christian faith in order to hold onto your belief that we are equal, we’re all on a level playing field, and there’s not this hierarchy within gender and male and female and all this stuff. So that’s what we’re doing, and if you have any questions or want to share your story, you can do that at almostheretical.com. We’d love to hear that, and we will be back next time.
Tim: Peace, y’all.