1 Timothy 2:13

In my previous post I argued that 1 Timothy 2:12 is not as straightforward as many believe it to be, and I looked at six factors that should be considered when trying to interpret this verse. How we understand the following verses, however, also influences how we interpret verse 12. In this post I look at 1 Timothy 2:13: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve.”

A Little Word with Big Implications

Verse 13 has been used by many to argue that the created order of Adam first, Eve second, is one reason why a woman cannot teach and lead a man. In this interpretation, the Greek word gar, typically translated into English as “for”, is understood as meaning “because”. (The preacher I mentioned in my previous post simply states that “for” means “because” in 1 Timothy 2:13.)

Gar is frequently used in the New Testament with a sense of “because”, but gar has many more senses. Gar is often used in the New Testament to introduce additional, background information. This information is often from the past, and sometimes from the Old Testament.

Here is a small sample of verses where gar is used to introduce this kind of additional information, rather than a reason.

In Matthew 3:2-3 gar occurs in verse 2 to give a reason why people should repent: “for (gar) the kingdom of heaven is near”. But in the following verse gar occurs again to introduce information from the Old Testament relevant to John: “For (gar) this is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke . . .” Here we have two uses of gar in consecutive verses. Note that most English translations leave gar in Matthew 3:3 untranslated.

In Acts 15 we read about the Jerusalem council. Immediately after James gives his judgement in Acts 15:19-20, he says, “For (gar) the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath” (Acts 15:21). Gar doesn’t introduce the reason for James’s judgement. Rather it tells us that he thinks his judgements would have been understood by the gentiles because the law of Moses has been preached in every city, etc. James is providing additional information in verse 21, not a reason for his statements in verses 19 and 20.

In 1 Corinthians 10:4 we are told by Paul that all Israel “drank the same spiritual drink”. He then gives more information: “For (gar) they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” Paul is not giving the reason why they drank—presumably the reason was that they were thirsty (Exod. 17:3). Rather, Paul is giving additional information about the event originally recorded in Exodus 17.

In John 4:43 it says that Jesus left for Galilee. Verse 44 then states: “Now (gar) Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country” (John 4:44 NIV). The NIV, ESV, NRSV, and NET put the information in verse 44 within parentheses. Furthermore, the NIV translates gar as “now”, while a few other translations, such as the NLT and HCSB, leave gar untranslated in verse 44.

How would it change our understanding of 1 Timothy 2:12 if verses 13-14 were put in parentheses? How would it change our understanding if the word “now” was used instead of “for”? Or if gar was left untranslated? A lot is riding on how we understand and translate the Greek word gar in verse 13.

I strongly suspect Paul did not mention the created order as a reason for his prohibition in 1 Timothy 2:12, but was giving additional information. (Time permitting, I hope to write a post on 1 Timothy 2:14 where I’ll explain what I think verses 13-14 address, but I’ve already had a go at explaining it here and here.)

Paul and the Created Order

Apart from Genesis 2, the created order is only mentioned in the Bible in two Pauline letters: First Corinthians and First Timothy. In 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 we find that Paul did not regard the created order, or the fact that the first woman came from first man, as important. Bear with me as I explain.

In a passage that is about origins and worship, Paul refers to the creation of man and woman in verses 8-9 where he writes: “For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man” (1 Cor. 11:8-9; cf. 1 Cor. 11:3). (Paul may be quoting the Corinthians here.)

1 Corinthians 11:2-16 is written as a chiasm, and the corresponding verses to 8-9 are 11-12: “Nevertheless (or, except that), in the Lord, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God” (1 Cor. 11:11-12).

Rather than placing an importance on the created order, Paul points out that even if the first woman’s source was the first man, every other man since has been born from a woman. According to Paul, who came first doesn’t matter because, ultimately, we all have God as our source. Moreover, we are mutually dependent on one another, regardless of our gender.

Paul nullifies any significance of the created order in the second part of the chiasm in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, particularly for us who are “in the Lord”. (More about this chiasm here.) Nevertheless, some maintain that the created order somehow disqualifies every woman from teaching and leading any man for all time.

The Biblical Record of Men who were Guided by Godly Women

Alluding to 1 Timothy 2:13-14, respected scholar Douglas Moo writes, “these restrictions [in verse 12] are permanent, authoritative for the church in all times and places and circumstances as long as men and women are descended from Adam and Eve.” (Source)

If the created order of Adam and Eve really does provide an impediment for a woman teaching and leading a man, then this impediment extends beyond the church because, presumably, everyone is “descended from Adam and Eve.” Yet the Bible, both Old and New Testaments give numerous examples of men who were guided by women for their betterment and the betterment of the community of God’s people.

These men include Abraham (Gen. 21:12); Barak (Judg. 4:4-6, 8); King David (1 Sam. 25:2-42); Joab (2 Sam. 20:14-22); King Lemuel (Prov. 31:1-9); King Josiah (2 Chron. 34:19-33, etc); Mordecai (Esth. 4:17 NIV); those who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:37-38); the men (and women) of Sychar (John 4:4-42); Jesus’ “brothers” (John 20:17-18); Apollos (Acts 18:26); etc. (More about these men, and the women who taught and led them, here.)

In all these examples, and others, there is no hint that the men were doing anything amiss by following the advice and direction of women. In fact there were good, even great, outcomes when they heeded the women’s words.

Furthermore, in the Bible we see that there was a respected place for prophetic woman among the Israelites and, later, the Jews. Female prophets were sought out and heeded by people including kings and army generals. These women taught oracles and doctrine, and made important decisions. In the early church there was also a respected place for female prophets. But in many churches today women are denied a voice, except perhaps in back rooms were only women and children are present.

What kind of great outcomes is the church, and the world, missing out on because godly women are being denied the opportunity to teach and lead both men and women?

And what is it about the created order, precisely, that supposedly disqualifies a woman from teaching and leading a man?

Related Articles

The Chiasm in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16
The Complementarian Concept of the Created Order
1 Timothy 2:12, the created order, and Bible men who were guided by godly women
Bible Women with Spiritual Authority
Many women leaders in the Bible had this one thing in common
Prominent Biblical Scholars on Women in Ministry
Adam and Eve in Ancient Gnostic Literature (cf. 1 Tim 2:13-14)