And Eve Is Relevant . . Why?

August 14, 2012

We left off yesterday with Paul’s introduction of his theological argument against women teaching in the church. He has stated his rule, and now he launches into a rationale: “[Gar] , first Adam was formed, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman . . .”(1 Tim 2:13).

How this applies depends on the function of the transitional word gar. If gar means “for” or “because,” then Paul is saying “women are not allowed to teach be­cause Eve was created second; and because Eve was deceived, not Adam.”  That is, Eve’s cre­ation after Adam and her sinning before he did are reasons why women may not teach.  We will not dispute the fact that Eve was created after Adam.  As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:8, “man is not from woman, but woman is from man; and indeed the man was not created for the wom­an’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.”  However, this does not imply that the woman is infe­rior to or even subordinate to the man.  Together they reflect the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Together they stand in need of God’s grace.   In his 1 Corinthians 11 passage, Paul goes on to say (lest he be misunderstood) that, in the Lord, men and women are not independent of each other, “for as the woman originates from man, so also the man has his birth through the woman, and all things originate in God” (1 Corinthians 11:12).  Based on the development of Paul’s thought in this passage, it is inadequate to explain 1 Timothy 2:13 simply as a proof text (i.e. a causal association).  He must have intended something else.  We will pick up this point in a mo­ment.

 Let’s ponder for a moment Paul’s observation (1 Timothy 2:14) that Adam was not deceived, but Eve was led astray.  At face value, this would indicate that Eve’s part in the Fall was symptomatic of her moral weakness.  The fact remains, however, that Adam sinned also since “he was with her” (Genesis 3:6b).  Paul tells us this himself in Romans 5:14, “Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of Adam’s offense . . .”  In 1 Corinthians 15:22 he says, “for as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”  If Paul attributes the Fall to Adam everywhere else in his letters, what is his point in 1 Timothy in attributing the Fall to Eve?  If we insist upon reading 2:13-14 as proof to support his not allowing women to teach, we must surmise that Paul would forbid men to teach as well.  He clearly is not going to do that (look at his letters). So that requires us to go back a step, and consider the second option for the function of gar, that is, to translate it “furthermore.”

In this case, the verses about Adam and Eve continue the progression started at the begin­ning of the paragraph.  Remember that the controlling purpose of the letter is to encourage Timo­thy to stand firm against false doctrine.  Paul wants to stop the spread of false teaching, some of which is done by women.

“Furthermore, Adam was created, then Eve” is, to my mind, a neutral assertion underscoring woman’s roots in the man.  Whereas in creation, Eve was taken out of man, now in Christ the knowledge of her redemption will be transmitted through men who are opening the doors of sal­vation to her.  Her need for instruction is evident, because ill-informed women are causing havoc in the church.  Paul highlights Eve’s transgression here to give the women in Ephesus an exam­ple of how easy it is for one to be deceived.  Paul does not use a male example, but as a good preacher would, he uses the analogy of Eve, another female with whom they would more readily relate.  We must give Paul credit for making his teaching as clear as possible!  He is not so concerned to prove that ei­ther Adam or Eve brought sin into the world. He knows both were guilty.  But under the present circumstances, it serves his purpose well to use Eve as his example.  The verb tense of exapatetheisa (having been deceived) offers a warning.  One is deceived by another agent.  Beware lest ye fall, or cause others to fall through your false testimony!

Assurance that all hope is not lost for womankind follows.  Paul goes on, “But she shall be saved by the childbearing, if they remain in faith and love and holiness with discretion.”  Some interesting grammatical problems appear in this verse.  But she (singular, we assume a feminine subject, implying “womankind”) shall be saved by tes teknogonias, rendered “childbearing,” “the childbearing,” or “the bearing of the Child” (i.e. the Messiah).  We can do several things with this:  Womankind can be redeemed by Mary’s bearing of the Messiah (an interesting paral­lel:  in Adam all die, in Christ all are made alive; vs. in Eve all die, by Mary’s childbearing all are made alive . . .) or simply, “Womankind shall be saved if they (women in general) settle down and conduct their day-to-day activities (like raising children) faithfully—they don’t have to preach or teach in order to assure their salvation.”  We reject the Mormon interpretation of sal­vation dependent upon marrying and having children, a doctrine which finds its roots in this verse.  “ . . . if they remain in faith, love and holiness with discretion.”  This is a universal exhor­tation.  Paul uses these very words in many general contexts to instruct both men and women.  The goal of every believer should be to remain in faith, love and holiness with discretion.

In conclusion, Paul was not allowing women to teach in Ephesus, because they were exhibit­ing ignorance and doctrinal error.  He says, “Let the women learn . . .” and in the meantime they are to remain quietly in submission to their teachers.  This does not mean that Paul would not allow any women to teach at any time.  By his own practice, to some women (notably Phoebe and Priscilla) he gave positions of authority, but to others he did not.  The deciding factor was not their sex, but rather their spiritual gifts, their doctrinal understanding, and their education in the Word of God.

And so it is with us in the Presbyterian church. We ordain men and women who are prepared, proven to be orthodox, and gifted and called to serve. We are not permitted to give the teaching office to people who are ill-prepared, who are not committed to orthodoxy, or who do not have the gifts for ministry. We seem able to judge preparedness and giftedness, but we’ve lost our bearings on evaluating the doctrinal orthodoxy of our candidates, since “the essential tenets of the Reformed faith” are now amorphous and up to the definition of individual presbyteries.


8 Responses to “And Eve Is Relevant . . Why?”

  1. Peggy Hedden Says:

    Dear Mary,

    I appreciated your observations and conclusions from Romans 5 on the culpability of Adam being brought to the Timothy text. They add a lot to a full consideration what Paul is really saying. Thank you.

    Your sister in Christ,

    Peggy H.

  2. Mary, what do you think of the Kroegers’ thesis, that Paul was addressing in this verse a species of Jewish-pagan proto-Gnosticism, that held that Adam was no better than a clod of earth and his “spark of divinity” was asleep or moribund until Eve listened to the voice of “Wisdom” (Sophia) in the serpent? She then, having becoming fully human (“created first”) then awakened and enlivened the man with the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Ergo, women had the right to domineer over men spiritually. Paul’s aim throughout the book is, as you have said, to combat the spread of false doctrine and promote the Truth. If this sort of chozzerai (pig slop) is what the uninformed, untaught, newly-converted Ephesian women were promulgating, no wonder he said they were not permitted to teach until they had properly learned!

    Sadly, this Sophia-worshipping, woman-as-first-life-giver, fall-as-rise heresy is just as rife in the Church today.

  3. Mary Holder Naegeli Says:

    I have always admired the Kroegers’ work, and do so here. What I think? “There’s nothing new under the sun.” Why? To the extent that women have felt male domination, the over-compensation has been in this direction of female superiority. It is a much harder task to rise to equal partnership and remain there in mutual submission under Christ’s Lordship than it is to assert dominance. But the S word, along with the other S word servanthood, is so hard for women and men to swallow!

  4. Jim Yearsley Says:

    Mary, As I look to the Genesis account (2:15ff) I think there is a powerful implication that the act of creating the woman as a suitable mate was in fact an act of completing an incomplete effort. Yes? No?

    • revmary Says:

      Yes, I think the second account of creation brings that point across very strongly. The first account emphasizes humanity (male+female) created in the image of God, bringing out their “sameness” in support of an argument for equality of the sexes. The second rendition, also, by virtue of the the passage’s structure (Adam created first, other creation, Eve created last) highlights A & E as a pair together the apex of God’s creation, and each incomplete without the other.

  5. Dennis Says:


    While I hesitate to disagree publicly with my good friend, I find your that argument for translating the Greek gar as “furthermore” does not stand up well. I find little evidence in Arndt and Gingrich for such a translation. William Mounce in his commentary on the Pastoral Epistles in the Word Biblical Commentary series (Vol. 46 pages 131 ff.) takes a long look at gar and concludes that it is illative and not illustrative. Paul uses the word 33 times in his letters and 30 of those times are clearly causal in nature. The other three indicate some kind of result, but are not illustrative. The context of 1 Timothy 2 indicates verse 13 is Paul’s rationale for his argument in verse 12. Mounce references other scholars who have reached the same conclusion. He also examines four different views on this text, including the one you cite and Kroegers and concludes that “These criticisms of alternative interpretations reinforce the view that v 13 reads most naturally as Paul’s reason for believing that vv 11–12 are true” (page 135).

    I think we need to agree that Paul thought his argument from Genesis was the reason he could make the claims he does in verses 11 and 12 about the role of women in the church in Ephesus. I would much rather struggle with trying to fit verses 13-15 into the understanding of women that Paul presents elsewhere and that Geneses 1 and 2 present as well. Genesis 1 says that male and female are made in the image of God, not just the males. In Genesis 2 Adam proclaims the women is flesh of is flesh and bone of his bone, that is made of the same stuff as Adam was. He calls women issah, “woman”, because she came from ish, “man”. I do not think we need to engage in hermeneutical gymnastics in 1 Timothy 2 to understand that God made men and women equal in terms of salvation and service in the church.

    • revmary Says:

      Friendship intact, Dennis! Thank you for taking the time to research this, though the conclusions regarding “gar” raise new questions. I won’t state them, because I don’t want to deal with them at the moment. We’ll let them hang here for the time being.

    • revmary Says:

      Friendship intact, Dennis! Thank you for taking the time to research this, though the conclusions regarding “gar” raise new questions. I won’t state them, because I don’t want to deal with them at the moment. We’ll let them hang here for the time being.

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