The Other Problem Passage

Lastly, we come to the second ‘problem passage,” found in Paul’s first letter to Timothy:

Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression (1 Tim. 2:11-14).

Surely Paul knew of Miriam, Deborah, Huldah and Anna, four prophetesses who spoke on God’s behalf to men and women, effectively teaching them God’s will. Surely he knew that Deborah, a judge over Israel, exercised some degree of authority over men and women. Surely he knew that God had poured out His Spirit on the day of Pentecost, partially fulfilling Joel’s prophecy of the last days when God would pour out his Spirit on all flesh so that sons and daughters would prophesy the word of God. Surely he knew that Jesus commissioned some women to take a message from Him to His male apostles. Surely he knew of his own words of approval, written to the Corinthian church, regarding women praying and prophesying during church gatherings. Surely he remembered that he had told the Corinthians that any one of them might receive a teaching to share with the body from the Holy Spirit (see 1 Cor. 14:26). So what did he intend to convey when he wrote these words to Timothy?

Notice that Paul appeals to two related facts from Genesis as the basis for his instruction: (1) Adam was created before Eve and (2) Eve and not Adam was deceived, and she fell into transgression. The first fact establishes the proper relationship between the husband and wife. As taught by the order of creation, the husband is to be the head, something that Paul teaches elsewhere (see 1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:23-24).

The second fact Paul mentions is not meant to convey that women are more easily deceived than men, because they aren’t. In fact, since there are more women and than men in the body of Christ, it could be argued that men are more likely to be deceived than women. Rather, the second fact shows that when God’s intended order in the family is neglected, Satan can gain entrance. Humanity’s whole problem began in the garden when the relationship between a man and his wife was out of order—Adam’s wife was not submitted to him. Adam must have told his wife God’s instruction regarding the forbidden fruit (see Gen. 2:16-17; 3:2-3). She, however, didn’t follow his instruction. In a sense she even exercised authority over him when she gave him the forbidden fruit to eat (see Gen. 3:6). It wasn’t Adam leading Eve in that case; it was Eve leading Adam. The result was disaster.