Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Philip Towner on 1 Tim 2:11-15
I'm currently reading through Philip Towner, The Letters of Timothy and Titus (NICNT; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006) and here is a summary of what Towner has to say on 1 Tim 2:11-15.
Towner does not advocate the restriction of women from ministerial offices nor does he regard the text as a post-Pauline creation by a follower of Paul who did not share his teacher’s egalitarian view of women. He situates himself between “feminist” and “hierarchicalist” interpretations. His approach has the following characteristics and conclusions, first, Towner is highly dependent on Bruce Winter’s study about the “new Roman women” who asserted their independence with great flare even to the point of making their sexual status ambiguous by their dress and apparel. Given that Christian worship in the atrium of a Graeco-Roman house in Ephesus was a “public” space, Paul does not want the well-to-do Christian women to bring Christians into disrepute by exhibiting this new liberated femininity in public worship. Second, Towner also maintains that the heresy circulating in Ephesus does influence Paul’s restriction here, but he carefully notes the study of S.M. Baugh that has debunked the often repeated scenario that the women were influenced by the hyper-feminist Artemis cult in Ephesus, and Towner adds that there is no definite evidence that the women were even teaching the heresy. Nonetheless, Towner thinks that Paul’s need to provide instructions about marriage (2 Tim 4:3), his statement about the value of childbearing (2 Tim 2:15), the misreading of OT stories (2 Tim 1:4; 2:13-15; 4:1-5), coupled with the attraction of some wealthy women and young widows to the “new women” paradigm does connect the women to the Ephesian heresy. Thus: “Paul prohibits a group of wealthy women from teaching men. The factors leading to his prohibition are: (1) public presentation – outer adornment and apparel and arrogant demeanour give their teaching a shameful and disrespectful coloration; (2) association with false teaching – they may actually have been conveying or supporting heretical teaching” (200). Third, Towner is convinced that elsewhere women did play a public role in Paul’s churches and he detects an equality principle within the Pauline gospel (e.g. Gal 3:28). Fourth, regarding the two complementary infinitives of v. 12 (“to teach” and “to exercise/assume authority over”) he concurs with Andreas Köstenberger’s syntactical and grammatical analysis of the passage but disagrees with him that “to teach” has a positive force since the wider context suggests that the content of the women’s teaching contains heresy or the teaching itself is motivated to assert their dominance over men – in both cases “to teach” has negative connotations. Fifth, concerning the “saved through child-birth” remark in v. 15, Towner thinks that Paul “urges these Christian wives to re-engage fully in the respectable role of the mother, in rejection of heretical and secular trends, through which she may ‘work out her salvation’” (235).