1 Timothy 2:12 as a Proof Text
A proof text is a verse or passage that someone feels is the definitive statement on a certain theological subject, so this verse is used, usually uncontextualised, as proof to establish a doctrine. For many people, 1 Timothy 2:12 is the proof text and the starting point on the issue of Women in Ministry, and all other scripture is seen through the lens, or the filter, of this one verse in particular.
When a single verse (or even a couple) is used to formulate and argue beliefs, there is a danger of ignoring other Bible verses which may seem to say something different or even contradict the desired premise. The significance of other passages might be downplayed, or their meaning distorted or obscured. This has happened in the Women in Ministry debate. Many New Testament verses which reveal that women did function as ministers and leaders have been simply overlooked and ignored, and even altered.
Also, when relying on a proof text, the meaning of other verses may be skewed or taken out of context to make them agree and fit in with the desired premise, even though the real meaning of these other verses may be unrelated. This has also happened in discussion and debates about Women in Ministry as we will see later. In this series, I will argue that, for several reasons, it is unwise to use 1 Timothy 2:12 as a proof text. One reason is the unique situation the Ephesian church was facing.
Reading Scripture in Context
When reading scripture, it is helpful to have an understanding of the background and culture of the recipients who the book or letter was originally written for or to. In this case, it is helpful to have an understanding of the culture of Ephesus where Timothy was ministering as Paul’s envoy.
We must also try to understand the concerns the book or letter is addressing. Each book of the Bible was written for a reason, or several reasons, so it is important to ascertain the author’s aim, where possible. When trying to understand the New Testament letters, in this case, 1 Timothy, it is vital.
Furthermore, it is important to read and comprehend the entire book or letter, and not just read a verse or passage in isolation from the rest of the text. In other words, we need to view verses of scripture within the context of the book or letter it comes from, and indeed within the context of the entire Bible.
This series looks at 1 Timothy 2:12 within the context of the entire letter of 1 Timothy, and it will look at the cultural setting of the Ephesian church. This, hopefully, will help us to better understand what Paul meant in 1 Timothy 2:12.
Go to Part Two – 1 Timothy 2:12 in Context: Artemis of Ephesus and her Temple
© 8th of December 2009, Margaret Mowczko
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1 Timothy 2:12 in Context
All my articles on 1 Timothy 2:12 here.
6 Reason 1 Timothy 2:12 is not as clear as it seems
Questions about how to implement 1 Timothy 2:12
The Consensus and Context of 1 Timothy 2:12
The Prominence of Women in the Cultic Life of Ephesus
New Testament Church Culture: Sexual Licentiousness
The Bible and “Plain Sense” Reading
Women, Teaching and Deception