Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Show Stoppers – 1 Timothy 2: Universal Restrictions or a Specific Remedy (Verses 13-14)

…continuing breakdown of 1 Timothy 2:11-15

(Please make comments on the concluding post)

In order to fully address this section of 1 Timothy and adequately demonstrate the translational problems with it, I need to go into a very detailed, sometimes word for word, breakdown of the text. This will be tedious but necessary. Suffice it to say that ALL English translations of this passage contain translational errors. Yet, most get some things right as well. What I propose to do is take the translation that is the most flawed and use it as a template. I do this not only because it will provide the starkest comparison to what I believe is the correct translation of the text but also because it highlights all of the various subsequent interpretational errors. So, here is 1 Timothy 2:11-15 from the Contemporary English Version:

[11] and they [women] should learn by being quiet and paying attention. [12] They should be silent and not be allowed to teach or to tell men what to do. [13] After all, Adam was created before Eve, [14] and the man Adam wasn't the one who was fooled. It was the woman Eve who was completely fooled and sinned. [15] But women will be saved by having children, if they stay faithful, loving, holy, and modest.
Verses 13 and 14 – “After all, Adam was created before Eve, and the man Adam wasn't the one who was fooled. It was the woman Eve who was completely fooled and sinned.”

13 “After all, Adam was created before Eve “ - There is nothing wrong with the various translations of this verse, as the Greek is fairly straightforward and factual. The problem lies in the assumed reason that Paul brought Adam and Eve into the discussion. Remember that the common belief is that this entire passage is 1) about the conduct of church services, and 2) about women as a group, represented by a generic individual woman. Why bring the creation and fall into the discussion then? As much as it pains me to say it, many teach that Paul is pointing out a fatal, universal, female flaw. This teaching takes one of two forms – either all women are easily deceived or all women are deceitful. In either case, the teaching claims that the prohibition on women teaching and taking leadership positions in the church (or the home) is necessary due to this fatal flaw. Some will even bring in the created order argument that I discussed in the first post in this series as further evidence that God, even in the beginning, set it up for men to be in authority.

But what does our discovery so far do to that teaching? We know that the church service is not even the setting here. We also know that it is not the sound teaching of true doctrine that is being addressed, nor is any good or benevolent authority at issue. As difficult as it would be to justify the argument that ALL women are easily deceived or deceitful, it is preposterous to claim that ALL women are violent, domineering, heretics.

So if it is not Paul’s purpose to address women globally by bringing up Adam and Eve, what is his purpose. Or are Adam and Eve the issue at all? Let’s read on.

14a “and the man Adam wasn’t the one who was fooled” – Nothing wrong here, although the use of “deceived” in most translations has more power behind it. It should be noted that deception is at the forefront of Paul’s thought right now, further confirming that false or deceptive teaching is the broader subject.

14b “It was the woman Eve who was completely fooled and sinned.” – Most people who have sat through sermons on this passage would agree with this blatant condemnation of Eve. In fact, most translations say “the woman”, although rarely is it considered that the phrase “the woman” may not be referring directly to Eve. But we have already considered, and hopefully concluded, that women in general are not the issue here and therefore using Eve as a generic representative for women seems suddenly, strangely out of place. Maybe a further examination of this woman is in order.

The actual text says “the woman” including the definite article. In Greek, the use of the definite article is very…well…definite. If the text says “the woman”, it is talking about a specific woman. As I said above, most people assume that specific woman is Eve. But when we look closely at the deception of the woman and her descent into sin, we discover an astounding translational error.

Our template translation says “was completely fooled and sinned”. All of that is simple past tense[1]. But is that what the Greek really says. The “to be” verb that goes along with “sin” and is translated in almost every version as past tense is actually in perfect tense in the Greek. Here is how the perfect tense is described at the Resources for Learning New Testament Greek site:

The basic thought of the perfect tense is that the progress of an action has been completed and the results of the action are continuing on, in full effect. In other words, the progress of the action has reached its culmination and the finished results are now in existence. Unlike the English perfect, which indicates a completed past action, the Greek perfect tense indicates the continuation and present state of a completed past action. (emphasis mine)
A proper transliteration of 14b, from the Scripture 4 All online interlinear new testament is: “the yet woman being seduced in transgression has become”. In other words, the transgression, or “sin” is ongoing at the time Paul is writing Timothy. The question that must be asked is: “is Eve’s sin still happening”? The answer is obviously “no”. Therefore, the specific woman being spoken of can not be Eve, although she suffers from the same sort of deception that Eve did.

Why Does It Matter – Verse 14 clears up two main misconceptions about this passage. First, it can not be about all women or a group of women because verse 14 is clear that a specific woman is in view. For the same reason, it can not have anything to do with sound teaching or conduct in the normal course of church worship. This passage is about a specific woman and a specific man in her life. It is almost certain that the man is her husband – Paul’s use of the first marriage is just more, albeit ancillary, confirmation of that fact.

A Proper Translation – Sadly, only a few of translations get the tense of the verbs correct. The one which uses the most contemporary English is the Analytical-Literal Translation: “but the woman, having been deceived, has come to be in transgression.”

Here, then, are verses 13-14 from our template and with our multi-translation version:

Template: “After all, Adam was created before Eve, and the man Adam wasn't the one who was fooled. It was the woman Eve who was completely fooled and sinned.”
Multi-version: “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman, having been deceived, has come to be in transgression.”


1. Translating tense between Greek and English is a little troublesome because the two languages don’t exactly treat tense the same way. In English, tense deals almost exclusively with time. In Greek, tense reflects both time and kind of action.

Show Stoppers - 1 Tim 2 Series:
Verse 11
Verse 12
Verse 13-14
Verse 15

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