Study Guide

The Pastoral Epistles (1-2 Timothy, Titus) Gender

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I desire […] that the women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes, but with good works, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God. Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. (1 Timothy 2:8-12, NRSV)

I will therefore […] that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. (1 Timothy 2:8-12, KJV)

The Pastor starts right off the bat with lots of rules for the ladies. No fancy clothes! No teaching! Shut your yaps, girls! This passage went on to cause no problems whatsoever for women in the church. (Yeah, it's opposite day.)

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, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty. (1 Timothy 2:13-15, NRSV)

For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety. (1 Timothy 2:13-15, KJV)

The Pastor justifies his separate and unequal rules with some interesting biblical interpretation. Man was created first, so that means he must be better. (Or else God was trying out a rough draft?) Also, Eve's the one who brought down humanity through her disobedience. Poor Adam just wanted some lunch. Well, that's one way of reading it.

The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task […] He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way—for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God's church? (1 Timothy 3:1, 4-5, NRSV)

This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) (1 Timothy 3:1, 4-5, KJV)

Apparently, leadership begins at home. If the man can't be the king of his own castle, how's he gonna manage a church? This just reinforces a man's proper place according to the Pastor: at the head of his family and the head of the community. Ladies, just keep sitting there meekly in the corner.

Women [deacons] likewise must be serious, not slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be married only once, and let them manage their children and their households well; for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 3:11-13, NRSV)

Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 3:11-13, KJV)

But wait a second. Women can be leaders, too? (The King James version sees it a little differently…) The Pastor goes through all kinds of qualifications for male deacons and then he throws in a few tidbits for female deacons, too. This passage jibes with what we know about the early church: ladies played a bigger role than we might realize.

Honor widows who are really widows […] The real widow, left alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day; but the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. (1 Timothy 5:3, 5-6, NRSV)

Honour widows that are widows indeed […] Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day. But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth. (1 Timothy 5:3, 5-6, KJV)

You might think that any woman who's lost a husband would be considered a widow…but you would be wrong. There are widows and then there are widows. See the difference? A real widow is pious and prayerful. Cracking smiles is not allowed. For shame, fake widows. For shame.

Let a widow be put on the list if she is not less than sixty years old and has been married only once; she must be well attested for her good works, as one who has brought up children, shown hospitality, washed the saints' feet, helped the afflicted, and devoted herself to doing good in every way. But refuse to put younger widows on the list; for when their sensual desires alienate them from Christ, they want to marry, and so they incur condemnation for having violated their first pledge. Besides that, they learn to be idle, gadding about from house to house; and they are not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not say. So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, and manage their households, so as to give the adversary no occasion to revile us. For some have already turned away to follow Satan. (1 Timothy 5:9-15, NRSV)

Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man. Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work. But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith. And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some are already turned aside after Satan. (1 Timothy 5:9-15, KJV)

More rules for widows. Anyone who's lost her husband has to be pretty morally upright to get some handouts around town. No flirting or gossiping! Keep in mind that losing a husband also meant losing one's entire source of income, so widows better be on their best behavior if they want help.

Likewise, tell the older women to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink; they are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good managers of the household, kind, being submissive to their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited. (Titus 2:3-5, NRSV)

The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. (Titus 2:3-5, KJV)

Some of this advice is the same for men and women: be Godly, don't drink, don't tell lies. But older women are also supposed to teach younger women how to behave through example. The main lesson? Be meek, mild, and submissive, and all will be well.

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