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I am meditating in the pastoral letters of Paul, trying to understand deeply his advice. However due to my lack of historical context knowledge, I couldn't really understand what he really meant on 1 Timothy 2.9-15 (text from American Standard Version, extracted from here):

9 In like manner, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefastness and sobriety; not with braided hair, and gold or pearls or costly raiment; 10 but (which becometh women professing godliness) through good works. 11 Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. 12 But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not beguiled, but the woman being beguiled hath fallen into transgression: 15 but she shall be saved through her child-bearing, if they continue in faith and love and sanctification with sobriety. 1 Timothy 2.9-15

I've seen, on my church, several times, woman teaching, asking pertinent questions on class, and also with braided hair and wearing gold rings, earrings and pearls... However, I've seen (and not a few times) some people (curiously, mostly women) saying should neither be allowed to teach, nor to wear pearls, quoting these verses.

I strongly believe there is some historical context over there, however currently I'm failing to understand what the author meant in this passage clearly. Are you able to explain it to me?

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Maybe I wasn't clear when I made this question. Just some topics that I find important in a complete answer:

  • Historical context (which I think that made myself clear on the question and also on the comment that I don't know, and I think it is important - sometimes more important than knowing the original word as "a dictionary").

  • The essence of what the author meant (if there was something mistranslated or not clear in this paragraph, or something like that).

It is also important to consider the woman appearance (verses 9-10) and behavior in church (verses 11-15). However, if you want to talk about of only one of the aspects (I, personally, consider this text as containing a single subject and not a set of "unlinked" topics...), please answer (or comment).

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Paul advised Timothy in this first epistle on problems within the congregation and in manner of the assembly. 1 Tim. chap. 2 has been misunderstood by many as it is often lifted out of context. The entire chapter is a discussion of the manner of conduct in the assembly. The better translation of the English words is found in Young's Literal Translation. The key to this is the opening verses 1-2:

"I exhort, then, first of all, there be made supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings, for all men:

2 for kings, and all who are in authority, that a quiet and peaceable life we may lead in all piety and gravity," (YLT)

These are still the prayers offered in the assemblies today, often at both opening and closing of worship service.

A next clue is in verse 8:

" I wish, therefore, that men pray in every place,..." (YLT)

Every place is often translated as "every where" in the other English versions. Every place means the place of the assemblies, not out on the street, or in the market as you are shopping, or at the concert hall. It is better understood as in every place where the assembly is gathered.

Also note that the action of verse 8 is men praying. And, in verse 9 the action continues:

" in like manner also the women..." (YLT)

The women were to be modestly dressed while they were praying in the assembly! In like manner - like the men - referred to the praying of the women during the assembly, and the intent was to keep the focus on the worship of God, and not to draw attention to the women's beauty of adornment.

The next problem is the proper translation of verse 11:

" Let a woman in quietness learn in all subjection,"

The Greek word for quietness is "ἡσυχίᾳ", or "hesychia", and the proper rendering is to learn quietly in subjection - not in a spirit of argument.

It did not mean the women were to be silent in church, or else they certainly would not have been coached on the manner of their dress while praying in church.

The next misunderstanding is found in verse 15:

"and she shall be saved through the child-bearing,..." (YLT)

"The child bearing" is not her child bearing otherwise we are presented with a different gospel where women have a different method of salvation than that which was previously given to the disciples and apostles.

All are to be saved the same way, through baptism into Christ Jesus (Mark 16:16; Gal. 3:27-29)

So, THE child bearing of 1 Tim. 2:15 is not the woman's child bearing. It is the child bearing of the birth of Christ and the birth of His church on the day of Pentecost.

Notice The language of birth in Stephen's rehearsal before the Sanhedrin in Acts 7:34,

" seeing I have seen the affliction of My people that [is] in Egypt, and their groaning I did hear, and came down to deliver them; and now come, I will send thee to Egypt."

Paul's cry in Rom. 7:24,

"A wretched man I [am]! who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?" (YLT)

Rom. 8:22,

" for we have known that all the creation doth groan together, and doth travail in pain together till now." (YLT)

And, the vision recounted in Rev. 12:5 of the birth of Christ:

"and she brought forth a male child, who is about to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, and caught away was her child unto God and His throne," (YLT)

That is THE child bearing by which both men and women are saved, and that is THE child bearing of 1 Tim. 2:15.

I have more posted at my blog ShreddingTheVeil. See "Is A Woman Commanded to Keep Silent In The Church".

  • Are you saying that "she shall be saved" means "she will be justified" rather than "delivered"? And are you saying that though Paul says "she will be saved" in reality he doesn't differentiate and means "she, like men will be justified by the birth of the Christ"? Or that "both men and women will be saved because a woman that birthed the savior"? By the way, have you indicated in your answer which occurrences of "woman" refer to a "wife" and which to women in general? Thanks. – Ruminator Sep 12 '17 at 16:33
  • She shall be saved... just as any man or woman is saved.. through Christ Jesus who delivered us from our sins through His birth and subsequent death on the cross. If He had not been born, and if His church had not been born, we would all still be in bondage under the Mosaic law. I don't see the terminology for justified in this context. I think that is a different topic. I didn't see that you asked about wives vs. maidens, but the context is that of a wife under subjection to a husband. However, I believe the manner of modesty and salvation would apply to all women. – Gina Sep 12 '17 at 16:59
  • In verse 11, is it "let a woman" or "let a wife" learn in all subjection? IE: Are all women to be subject to all men or to their own husbands? And how do you mean "saved"? Saved from what? And if Paul means "all people, men and women" then why does he say "She shall be saved"? (I'm not opposing what you are saying, just asking for clarification). – Ruminator Sep 12 '17 at 17:09
  • The word saved should be clearly understood to be those that are in Christ and worthy of eternal life in heaven. Is there some other use of that word in the scriptures? All women, as are all men, are subject to the authority of Christ. If they are maidens, their next authority used to be their fathers. If they are married, then the next authority is their husband, and only their husband. They do not have to answer to every man. The elders / ministers of the assemblies had authority over the congregation, both men and women as appointed by the apostles. I would question... – Gina Sep 12 '17 at 23:12
  • cont'd... whether any elder / minister has that same authority today as there are no apostles that can appoint according to the Holy Spirit as was done in the first century A.D. The appointment of elders today is a popularity contest and many of them are not well versed in the scriptures and do not have the knowledge that they should. So, today a wife is subject to Christ first, and then to her husband. Because if the husband is not in Christ, then she has a problem being joined to an unbeliever. – Gina Sep 12 '17 at 23:15
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There are only two references I see to braided hair in the Hebrew scriptures and both refer to Samson's long hair which was braided into seven braids, almost like an octopus on his head. He was under a Nazirite vow to not cut his hair and if he cut it then he would lose his power:

Judges 16: 13Delilah said to Samson, "Until now, you have mocked me and told me lies. Tell me with what you might be bound." He said to her, "If you weave the seven locks of my head with the web." 14She fastened it with the pin, and said to him, "The Philistines are on you, Samson!" He awakened out of his sleep, and plucked away the pin of the beam, and the web. 15She said to him, "How can you say, 'I love you,' when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and have not told me where your great strength lies." 16It happened, when she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, that his soul was troubled to death. 17He told her all his heart, and said to her, "No razor has ever come on my head; for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother's womb. If I am shaved, then my strength will go from me, and I will become weak, and be like any other man." 18When Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, "Come up this once, for he has told me all his heart." Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her, and brought the money in their hand. 19She made him sleep on her knees; and she called for a man, and shaved off the seven locks of his head; and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him.

One might want to try to make Paul's reference to braided hair into something culturally presumptuous based on that but it would be a stretch. Both men and women braided their hair. Men of that time also braided their beards (from what I see in ancient statues).

There are two references to braided hair in the LXX. The first one is, I think telling Ezekiel that he is to not braid his hair but rather to be in mourning:

Ezekiel 24:17 17 Thou shalt groan for blood, and have mourning upon thy loins; thy hair shall not be braided upon thee, and thy sandals shall be on thy feet; thou shalt in no wise be comforted by their lips, and thou shalt not eat the bread of men.

But the passage he seems to have in mind is the 10th chapter of Judith:

10 Now after that she had ceased to cry unto the God of Israel, and had made an end of all these words, 2 she rose where she had fallen down, and called her maid, and went down into the house, in the which she abode in the sabbath days, and in her feast days, 3 and pulled off the sackcloth which she had on, and put off the garments of her widowhood, and washed her body all over with water, and anointed herself with precious ointment, and braided the hair of her head, and put on a tire upon it, and put on her garments of gladness, wherewith she was clad during the life of Manasses her husband. 4 And she took sandals upon her feet, and put about her her bracelets, and her chains, and her rings, and her earrings, and all her ornaments, and decked herself bravely, to allure the eyes of all men that should see her.

Brenton, L. C. L. (1870). The Septuagint Version of the Old Testament: English Translation (Jdt 10). London: Samuel Bagster and Sons.

Paul seems to see her as impudent by skipping mourning for her dead husband and flirting and perhaps considers it even worse for a wife to be dressed to flirt once she has been married to a husband.

  • Although I hardly believe Paul have Judith in mind (which was not a part of the Scriptures at that time - the Roman church has added them several centuries after Paul's death), your answer is useful. But I also would like to know something about verses 11 and 12... – Leonardo Alves Machado Sep 11 '17 at 17:55
  • @LeonardoAlvesMachado Apparently it was among Paul's scriptures which he told Timothy were all, unlike Catholic traditions, God-breathed. – Ruminator Sep 11 '17 at 18:00
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    "(which was not a part of the Scriptures at that time - the Roman church has added them several centuries after Paul's death". Not at all. The Old Testament of the early Christians was the Septuagint. Jerome was somewhat of an innovator in going back to Hebrew originals to translate the Vulgate. If you've read Wisdom, Sirach etc,you'd see that St. Paul and St. James at least use or presuppose knowledge of them in their letters, or make reference to them.For example, Rom 9:21/Wis 15:7/Sir 33:13; Rom 9:19; Wis12 :12. Heb 1:3/Wis 7:24-26. 1 Co 15:29/2 Macc 12:44 etc.*Wis 2:1-21;* Js 4:13-5:6 etc. – Sola Gratia Sep 12 '17 at 14:54
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    Or Heb 11:35 and 2 Macc 7:1-42. – Sola Gratia Sep 12 '17 at 14:57
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    No problem. We shouldn't blame people for not being familiar with said Books as they read the New Testament, as those who have never had them in their Bible. I for one, when I was younger and first began to read the Bible, began with the Old Testament, first, and so reading St. Paul's Epistles, and even the Gospels, it became apparent they were quite familiar with these Books, and utilize them in such a way as to imply their inspiration; if not by their usage, by the fact that they taught accurately concerning what would only much later be revealed or taken up e.g. Tob 12:12-15;Rev 8:2-3. – Sola Gratia Sep 12 '17 at 17:03
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First of all, remember that this is a personal letter from Paul to Timothy, whom he has left in charge of the church in Ephesus. As such, it is advice for Timothy in the management of his congregation, not a public address directly to the people as in his letter to the Ephesians. The language here is less inspiring, less teaching/preaching and more direct. It's a shame we only get one half of the correspondence, as I'm curious how Timothy worded the questions or issues to Paul that elicited this advice.

Women styling their hair (in braids, curls, pins, etc) or wearing gold and jewels or expensive cloth are actions designed to draw attention to their beauty. This has been a common practice across many cultures at least since Ancient Egypt, and apart from Medieval times (in Europe) it hasn't changed much.

Notice Paul does not say that God forbids women braiding their hair or wearing gold, but that he personally does not permit it. He attempts to rationalise this by referring to Eve's role in Genesis and suggesting that women should essentially stick to child-bearing, but I like to think that we have come a long way in understanding since the time of writing of either of these books, so we can forgive the ignorance of these authors and move on.

Remember, too, that Paul has chosen to remain celibate, and so any woman adorning herself or drawing attention to her beauty, her intelligence (by teaching) or to herself in any way (by speaking), rather than appearing modestly dressed and quiet in his presence, could actually be a distraction to him personally. This is possibly a more likely reason for his preference.

Why the women of your church would quote these verses against other women might have more to do with their own issues (jealousy, inferiority, etc) than with anything else. It smacks of passive-aggression to me.

  • Sorry, but I find hard to buy Paul as an ignorant guy you described in your 3rd and 4th paragraphs. I see him as the most open-minded apostle - he gave up all tradition he had as pharisee (being a pharisee points also to the strong possibility of Paul being a widow, since all pharisees had to be married) and several benefits he had on Judaic community to become a Christian. – Leonardo Alves Machado Sep 12 '17 at 17:52
  • For his time, Leonardo, yes, I agree, he would have been very open minded in many respects. I meant only that there was a general ignorance during that time with regards to gender equality, which (despite his open-mindedness) is apparent in his writing. Paul's use of phrases such as 'I permit', 'I wish' and 'I exhort' throughout his letter to Timothy suggests that he doesn't consider this advice to be God-breathed, or to be adopted as universal doctrine. – Possibility Sep 13 '17 at 12:23

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