A tricky passage in 1 Timothy

Blog Bulletin 

Published on: Thursday February 10 2022, 4:00 pm

Those of us who follow the official readings for Morning Prayer have the advantage of encountering passages that are not part of the Sunday cycle.  But there are verses that seem to cause difficulty, and this last Tuesday’s was one because of what it says about the behaviour of women in church.  

Three ways to make sense of such material are
1. To consider the wider context of Scripture as a whole
2. To read the surrounding verses carefully
3. To access the best possible translations

So bear in mind that St Paul’s friend and close ally Luke wrote even more of the New Testament than he did and is famous for his positive view of women – as notably in Jesus’ treatment of them. Indeed we should find this a good year to register the point because Luke is ‘flavour of month’ for all this year’s Sunday readings. Then notice the disturbing paragraph (1 Timothy 2: 8) starts  ‘ I desire that…men should pray lifting up holy hands without anger or argument’ and only in verse 11 talks about women keeping ‘silent’ – a word which in the original and in the best new English translations is in any case better rendered ‘quiet’.

And all this is specific to a particular situation in Ephesus in the early church. So we need to beware how we apply its lessons to our modern situation in the UK.

One thing is clear. Men and women should still regard our churches as places of peace and not of conflict. What an irony therefore that gender issues should sometimes be the cause of controversy today.

And maybe it’s wise not to include such potentially controversial material in our Sunday readings!
Revd. Jim

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash