Taking A Careful Look At The Ministry Of Women In The New Testament Church (Part Twenty)

It is written:

“Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12  And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” (1 Timothy 2:11-12)

When Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, there were serious problems involving the female population of the church. Paul had left Timothy in Ephesus specifically to combat the false teaching from both within and without the church (1 Timothy 1:3). Much of this false teaching was being propagated by some of the women in the community who had been influenced by the cult of Artemis. One author has pointed out:

“However, male and female would not be interdependent if the creation order was reversed and if the first man came out of woman. This could be the possible context for Paul’s summary of the creation account in 1 Timothy 2: 13–14. Given the virgin birth of Christ and the life experience of every human coming out of a woman, a creative reversal might have seemed to be in order for women in Ephesus who would not have a significant commitment to the Old Testament. A reversal of the order of creation would be more coherent, more consistent, more economical, and a logical variation, particularly for a woman who had participated in a goddess religion such as the worship of Artemis in Ephesus, or a fertility cult. 30 A woman may think, “It is clear from the virgin birth that a man’s involvement in the birth process is dispensable in divine providence, so why would God need or want to make man first?” And so, an old wives’ tale could be born that would begin to circulate in mischievous fun or in earnest as a competitive creation myth around the hearth. We know that such myths, genealogies, and old wives’ tales were circulating in Ephesus and were a big problem for Timothy; all three terms could describe the same problem and refer to the false teaching among the Ephesian women: the genre (myths in 1 Tim. 1: 4; 4: 7), the content (genealogies in 1 Tim. 1: 4), and the source (old wives’ tales in 1 Tim. 4: 7).” (Cynthia Long Westfall, Paul And Gender: Reclaiming The Apostles Vision For Men And Women In Christ, 73 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Academic)

The result of the Artemis cult on the church would be evident:

“Paul would then be prohibiting teaching that tries to get the upper hand (not teaching per se). A reasonable reconstruction would be as follows: The women at Ephesus (perhaps encouraged by false teachers) were trying to gain an advantage over the men in the congregation by teaching in a dictatorial fashion. The men in response became angry and disputed what the women were doing. This interpretation fits the broader context of 1 Timothy 2: 8–15, where Paul aims to correct inappropriate behavior on the part of both men and women (vv. 8, 11). It also fits the grammatical flow of verses 11–12: “Let a woman learn in a quiet and submissive fashion. I do not, however, permit her to teach with the intent to dominate a man. She must be gentle in her demeanor.” Why were the Ephesian women acting this way? One explanation is that they were influenced by the cult of Artemis, where the female was exalted and considered superior to the male. The importance of this cult to the citizens of Ephesus in Paul’s day is evident from Luke’s record of their two-hour chant—“ Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” (Acts 19: 28, 34). One reason is the legend that Iphigenia, the daughter of Agamemnon, landed with the image of Artemis when she fled from the Tauroi (Pausanias, Guide to Greece 1.33.1), and the renown of the Amazons, who traditionally dedicated the image. 132Another reason is Artemis’s genealogy. Artemis (and brother Apollo), it was believed, was the child of Zeus and Leto (Lat. Latona); she spurned the male gods and sought the company of a human consort named Leimon. This is played out at the feast of the Lord of Streets, when the priestess of Artemis pursues a man, pretending she is Artemis herself pursuing Leimon. This made Artemis and all her female adherents superior to men. 133” (James R. Beck, Two Views Of Women In Ministry, 88-90 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan)

The women teachers in Ephesus who Paul reproved needed to learn humility and gentleness in a Christ-like spirit.

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