I Suffer Not a Woman: Rethinking I Timothy 2:11-15 in Light of Ancient Evidence - Richard Clark Kroeger, Catherine Clark Kroeger

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

I haven't read 1Timothy all the way through yet, I'm still in the Old Testament as my Bible reading goes, but I know enough to be confused by the above passage. Paul refers men to women for the women to teach them things in other passages, so it doesn't make sense for him to have said this. Don't even get me started on being "saved through childbearing" or how Adam being "formed first" gives him superiority because Paul otherwise pronounces that we all will be saved by grace through faith, right?


This book made me realize a few things. 

  1. Translation is hard and your work will be second guessed, but some error or misinterpretation is inevitable.
  2. Context is key. Being congruent with the meaning of the rest of the text should be important. 
  3. We do not always properly consider the audience of the Pauline letters.


This book makes a lot of sense out of a strange and incongruent passage of the Bible. It takes a long, hard look at what's going on in the passage and the time it takes place in and makes some new assumptions as to what it could be responding to than I had heard before. 


Like the audience. Maybe it was just me, but I had messed up the intended audience for this letter when I first considered it. I had known that Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, but I didn't put it together that his battles were not against Jewish traditions. This, unfortunately, meant that there was little or no reference to what he was battling with those letters in the rest of the Bible. We had no idea what the culture was like when many of our scholars were interpreting this letter and passing those interpretations on. This book gives us a glimpse of what that could have been, as much as we can get from two centuries away for now. Maybe new evidence will pop up and decimate this assessment. Time will tell. 


It also makes some sense out of his references at the end there. I've seen some jokes that the Adam thing doesn't make sense because the animals came before him and they don't have superiority over people. The argument that the Clarks make takes a look at these things smooths out the rougher edges of the letter. They make the whole thing make sense. 


They make it match up with everything else I have been taught about the Bible and salvation and what Jesus was trying to teach people when He was on this earth. I haven't finished reading through the whole Bible yet, I'm only in Joshua, but I know enough to know that this never made any sense, not completely. It's one of those passages that people like to pull out and throw around without context and while ignoring other passages that contradict it in order to suppress or oppress people. There are far too many instances of Paul referring men to women to learn from for this passage to hold up on it's own. 


These passages are not meant to stand alone, they are part of a story, a bigger message that these don't match up with. 


Anyone taking a look at women in the church should read this book. For that matter, anyone who goes to church should read this. 



Note: Before anyone attempts to hit me with some misogynistic Old Testament passage, I'd like to remind them that books are not measured by their beginnings alone. It's the progression, the arc. The Bible should not be treated differently. It's a message that progresses throughout it's own history and should not be judged solely by the misogynistic parts of it's beginning but by the arc to redemption and equality that waits at its end. I haven't read the whole thing, but I've read and been taught enough about that second half to look for that much. If you doubt this or are curious, come along with me on my journey reading through the Bible on this blog. Catch up here