Gender discrimination?!

Hi everyone,
I’m having trouble understanding this passage from 1 Timothy 2 about women… I can’t believe Paul said that!! :see_no_evil::smiley:

“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.”
‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭2:11-15‬ ‭NIV‬‬

It sounds like: “shut up woman because you are the reason of all of this mess, now back to the kitchen”!! :smiley:


@Miriameweida Terrific question :slight_smile: Thankfully, this is not an instance of gender discrimination. However, it is a notoriously difficult passage to interpret. It is almost certain that we are missing part of the historical context for Paul’s arguments in this passage. One possible solution, and I emphasize it is only one possible solution, is that Paul was addressing an issue related to the cult of Artemis.

The cult of Artemis was prominent in Ephesus and women would appeal to Artemis for safety through childbirth. Priestesses also had a prominent role in the cult of Artemis and Artemis was born before her brother, Apollo. All of these facts correlate to Paul’s emphasis on the creation order of Adam and Eve, women not dominating (as a priestess might), and looking to Christ for deliverance through childbirth rather than Artemis.

Again, very difficult passage to interpret and new historical evidence could change things, but I think this is one of the stronger possible interpretations.

So this is what I want: the men should pray in every place, lifting up holy hands, with no anger or disputing. 9In the same way the women, too, should clothe themselves in an appropriate manner, modestly and sensibly. They should not go in for elaborate hair-styles, or gold, or pearls, or expensive clothes; 10instead, as is appropriate for women who profess to be godly, they should adorn themselves with good works. 11They must be allowed to study undisturbed, in full submission to God. 12I’m not saying that women should teach men, or try to dictate to them; they should be left undisturbed. 13Adam was created first, you see, and then Eve; 14and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived, and fell into trespass. 15She will, however, be kept safe through the process of childbirth, if she continues in faith, love and holiness with prudence. –N. T. Wright’s Translation

In 1 Timothy, Artemis is not mentioned by name, but her dominating presence in Ephesus was pervasive, as Paul himself experienced in Acts 19, when a city-full of her worshipers spent two hours shouting “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians,” until commanded to disperse. Her temple was described by Pliny as four times as large as the Parthenon,[1] and housed a large idol believed to have “fallen from the sky (Acts 19:35).” She was worshiped by “all Asia and the world (Acts 19:27).” While the Ephesians believers embraced the gospel, “the author of the epistle seems to be combating mixed devotion to Jesus … and to Artemis, whom the converts could not yet abandon altogether.”[2] Many of Paul’s instructions “overlap with common teachings of the Artemis cult.”[3]

It was popular belief that Artemis was the pre-eminent first born. Apollo, her twin, was subsequent.[6] This birth order gave Artemis dominance over her male twin. Paul’s reference to the Genesis account of creation was to correct false myths concerning the superiority women claimed over men through Artemis.[7] This false teaching would naturally be taught by the women who used Artemis’s supremacy to dominate the men of the church (2:12). Paul referenced Genesis, not as proof that women as second-formed are more easily deceived, but as a presentation of the facts without stating ramifications .

Artemis Savior , as she was titled, was petitioned for safe deliverance.[9] Women wore amulets to signal their devotion to Artemis. Mothers and fathers wrote letters to her temple asking for safety in child delivery. Women showed their gratitude to Artemis for a happy marriage or safe delivery by presenting the goddess with expensive garments.[11] The statue of Artemis was draped in lavish vestments, and the women petitioned her wearing their own finery. Remember that 1 Timothy was written to correct false teaching with unified doctrine? Paul mentions salvation for the very thing the false goddess Artemis was famous for: childbirth.

Kept Safe Through Childbearing

Here are the interpretations I have heard of the idea that women will be saved “through childbearing”:

  1. This could be translated “women will be saved through the childbearing ” - the addition of the definite article would point to Jesus. Jesus was ‘the child’ - ‘the seed’ of Eve born to crush the serpent and set mankind free.
  2. Childbearing was a way to keep women in that context from becoming gossips / busybodies & straying away from God. Paul is basically telling the women to fulfill their societal role rather than being idle in the same way he told men not to be lazy but to work with their hands and earn the respect of outsiders.
  3. N. T. Wright takes the view that the point of this passage is that the woman, even though she has to give childbirth underneath the curse, will be ‘kept safe’ through childbirth. In other words, Christ has reversed the effects of the curse. This could tie into the idea that God will save them rather than Artemis, a prominent cult in Ephesus.

Thank you so much @SeanO . That was really enlightening :slight_smile:


@Miriameweida Glad it helped :slight_smile:


Hi, @Miriameweida! Great question, indeed. It is often said that Christianity is a means to keep women subservient to men (any men), and basically ignorant, barefoot and pregnant. I think, however, that that can only be applied if Scripture is taken out of context. That’s part of why I appreciate @SeanO’s response. Context includes a historical setting that is very different than that of today. Remember that Paul spent a ton of time with Aquila and his wife Priscilla, that he thanks numerous women in his epistles, and that if we combine all of that with the verses that command men to love their wives as Christ loves the church (and define love as Jesus showed it in the Gospels and in I Corinthians 13), we see that God has indeed set women in a place of respect and love. The devil will lie to us nonstop. I gently urge you to take Scripture as a whole/big, complete picture when presented with isolated snippets of verses. :slight_smile: That was a challenge to me, too, when I struggled with things like this presented in an isolated manner. Awesome question – keep searching and questioning! He doesn’t rebuke us for that. :slight_smile: