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On the one hand, they appear to be equal:

26 For you are all sons and daughters of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise. [Galatians 3:26-29 NASB]

But on the other hand, some discrimination there appears to exist:

11 A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a wrongdoer. 15 But women will be preserved through childbirth—if they continue in faith, love, and sanctity, with moderation. [1 Timothy 2:11-15 NASB]

How can we reconcile these two (seemingly contradictory) passages?

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  • Equal in what? Humanity? Status before God? Role? Delegated authority?
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 15 at 14:22
  • @curiousdannii - Fair point. Equal in every respect they can be equal as long as it is biologically possible. Mar 15 at 14:28
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Logical equivalence

Computer science offers some helpful definitions:

  • “Equal” does not mean “same”
  • “Equal” means “same value”

Therefore, I can accurately state that (5+3) = (6+2). The expressions on each side of the equivalence are not the same, but they are equal.

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Domineer

The verb sometimes translated “to exercise authority over” is αὐθεντέω; it is found nowhere else in the New Testament, and could more appropriately be translated “to domineer” (see here).

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Quietness

The word here is ἡσυχία which connotes being tranquil & calm. It does not mean speechless—that would be σιγή (see here). It is noteworthy that the related word ἡσύχιος (again, tranquil) is applied to men & women in verse 2.

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The Historical Context—Ephesus & the cult of Diana

Timothy was leading the church in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3), a major city in its region, where Paul himself had lived for more than 2 years (see Acts 19). This means Paul had quite a bit of personal knowledge regarding the people in Ephesus and the problems they faced.

Ephesus was home to the temple of Diana and was a hotspot for the worship of Diana (see Acts 19:23-28). In some expressions of the lore, believers in Diana saw her as the goddess of pregnancy, and would seek her protection during childbirth (see here).

The cult of Diana interpretation is interesting because Paul was just cautioning against hairstyles they were known for in verse 9 (see Stott's work here p. 84). It seems likely that this advice, and quite possibly the advice in the surrounding verses, is specifically targeted to help the church avoid domineering and immoral practices common to Ephesus and the cult of Diana.

In this case, Paul is telling Timothy, when a woman comes to you with concern about childbirth and is considering Diana worship, here is the counsel to give her: she will be saved by the true and living God, and His blessings will be poured out if she and her husband are faithful.

Note that “saved” here could mean physical protection or it could have in mind an eternal blessing, or both. In other words, whether the blessings come in this life or in eternity, they will come from the true and living God, not from Diana.

(Additional context re the cult of Diana can be found in the aforementioned work by Stott, with summaries in my thoughts on a related question here, and an article by Gregory Brown here)

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Presentism

The idea that there is no difference between men and women is not to be found in any ancient text that I am aware of, including the Bible. That they have the same value is found in the Bible, as noted in the OP.

The roles and identities of men & women are a major social topic today; but to expect the views of today to be found more-or-less identically-reflected in texts written millennia ago is known as the fallacy of presentism—to superimpose on the past the worldview of today.

If you’re looking for a rubber-stamp for a particular modern philosophy, a letter written circa AD 63 probably won’t give it to you. If you’re looking for profound theology, there the text may be of great value.

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An educated guess on Paul's overall point - the tie in to Adam & Eve

This related question points out the unusual shifts between singular and plural in this chapter.

Verses 13 & 14 are about Adam and Eve. If they are the antecedents for verse 15, “she” is a reference to Eve and “they” means Adam & Eve. Then Paul might be saying something like this:

Redemption from the Fall will come because Eve will safely carry into the world descendants, from whom will come her Savior. Christ is of the seed of Eve, and so her Salvation is indeed a result of her motherhood (see Genesis 3:15 as well as Dottard’s post here). Her role as a mother is a critical part of God’s plan to offer salvation to her and to the entire human family.

What about the “they”? Adam isn’t off the hook here. Eve does the child-bearing, but both mother and father have a sacred duty—together—to bring up their family in “faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” The righteous branch of their posterity, from which Christ will come, is borne by Eve, but is to be raised & taught by both Adam and Eve.

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Conclusion

Paul recognizes the vital roles played by men & women of faith. There is no "greater" or "lesser" because we "are all one in Christ Jesus," and what we have in common is greater than what we have in difference--across any set of variables--because "we are the children of God." (Romans 8:16)

For a deeper dive on how I believe God Himself feels on this issue, see my thoughts in the latter half of the video found here.

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The context of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is dealing with function and behavior in the assembly. The context in Galatians 3:28 is unity in the body, not individual function in the Church. Whether one is male or female has absolutely no bearing on one’s relationship to God. Whether one is male or female, one is still “sons of God…, baptized into Christ…, clothed with Christ…, one in Christ…, belong to Christ…," both are "Abraham’s descendants, and heirs according to promise.” In the application of these blessings, there is no difference between male and female, slave or free.

In 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 14, Paul is very clear that the distinction between male and female does indeed exist in the Church and that it does matter when it comes to divinely assigned functions. To counter any opposition to the prohibition Paul adds that women in the assembly are to keep silent and not speak, not even to ask a question.

1

Men and women are equal in the eyes of God. Equality, however, does not imply identity in functions. Men and women serve different functional purposes in practice.

From the point of view of admission into the kingdom of God, male and female are equal:

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

We are all one in Christ. Unity does not mean sameness.

On earth, at a particular time, Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:12

But I do not allow a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.

This needs to be balanced by Luke 10:39

She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said.

A woman can be as close to the Lord as any man during a sermon. Men and women are equal in this practical sense on earth.

1 Timothy 2:13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a wrongdoer.

These are facts and should be read factually and objectively. It does not logically imply that men and women are not equal.

Are men and women equal or not?

In the eyes of God, emphatically yes, despite that some men may think otherwise.

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  • "The concept of gender does not exist in heaven." This statement isn't supported by any of the verses you quote.
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 15 at 14:24
  • I deleted that sentence. Thanks.
    – Tony Chan
    Mar 15 at 14:54
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No - man and women are not equal. They are one. Equality amongst people is not a biblical concept. Judging, seeking or ‘assigning’ ‘equality’ between ‘humans’ is a man centred doctrine. Where as the Bible sees ‘man’ as ‘one’. But, being ‘one’ is not the same as ‘equal’. Why didn’t the 3 servants in the parable of the talents receive an equal amount? Do all ‘humans’ have equal abilities?

GEN 1:27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Every ‘creature’ God created had a role, a function. Man’s role was to reflect Gods glory, throughout all the earth.

GEN 1:28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it;

And, the woman was created for a specific purpose..

GEN 2:18 And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

When you take a humanistic (man centred) view of scripture, you ‘judge’ terms, and all of God creations from man’s perspective. And, asking about equality of male and female is inviting this. And, no doubt any resulting ‘apologetic’ response could drag in scripture to support.

Asking, or trying to ‘work out’ whether God sees male and female as ‘equal’ is in some respects ridiculous. Now, if you meant... ..”Do Christians see man and women as equal”? - I’m sure you’ll get some right sounding answers.

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