“Is 1 Timothy 2 about marriage?” Here is my answer. By Bruce C. E. Fleming
When studying the Garden of Eden passage in Genesis 2-3 and Paul’s advice in 1 Timothy 2-3 here are things we need to pay attention to: “syntax ”and “form.” But the greatest of these is “form.”
“Syntax” is not a “sin tax.” A “sin tax” is something you pay the government. When we study the “syntax” of a Bible passage we look into the word order.
“Form” is not something you fill out when it comes to studying a Bible passage. Form conveys content when a passage is written in a poetic style. The form is all about where ideas are placed in a passage and how they are tied together. This placement, for example, can indicate the importance of an idea or event.
However, I have observed that form is often missed completely in research on these passages. Why is form so important in Genesis 2-3 and in Paul’s epistles? Form is important because form conveys meaning and carries content when passages are laid out in poetic style.
Genesis 2-3 is written in a large chiastic parallel arc. And there are smaller poetic forms embedded in Genesis 2-3.
1 Timothy 2:8-3:13 is written in a large chiastic parallel arc as well. Paul uses many poetic devices from Hebrew poetry in his letters.
The main idea of these important passages in Genesis and 1 Timothy comes in the middle. Not the beginning or the end.
When these passages are translated into modern languages such as English or French the rules of the modern languages naturally take over in the mind of the reader. The rules of our modern languages are assumed to be the way the passage was originally written. But this may not be the case.
In English, the last line often strikes us as the punch line. But the last line in Genesis 2-3 and in 1 Timothy 2-3 is not the punch line.
The high point in Genesis 2-3 in Hebrew is the middle of the rainbow-like arc. It occurs in Genesis 2:25. Everything is very good in the Garden of Eden in 2:25. The humans are in a wonderful relationship with one another and with God, naked and unashamed, in 2:25.
This is how we were designed by God to live. This is who God is. This is who we are to be. This is the high point according to the form of the passage.
Form conveys some of the content of the meaning. It is not to be minimized or ignored. But has this been pointed out to you many times before? Even once?
What about 1 Timothy 2-3? What about it? I’ve been asked “What do we learn about marriage from 1 Timothy 2:11-15?” Apparently, somebody has been teaching that these verses teach us about marriage. Study of the form of the passage reveals that this passage is all about correcting and restoring wayward overseers in the church at Ephesus. It is not about marriage.
If a person does a “word study” on these verses does this answer the question “Are these verses about marriage?” If a person studies the “syntax” in these verses does this answer the question “What about marriage?” We may wish it so. But this passage isn’t about marriage.
If we want to learn from the Bible about marriage we need to look somewhere else. It is when we study the form of the passage in 1 Timothy that we make progress in our understanding.
The form of the passage in 1 Timothy 2:8-3:13 indicates that the main idea is in the middle. The parallelism that runs from 2:8 to 3:13 focuses on the middle idea of 3:1.
Jesus, the Logos (or Word) is the high point of the passage. Jesus makes possible the retraining and restoration of the men and women overseers Timothy was correcting in chapter 2 and was reassigning to ministry in chapter 3. In the parallel arc of the passage of 2:8-3:13 Paul focuses on men, women, women and men, women again and then men. In the middle, in 3:1, is Jesus the Logos, or Word. All this is discussed in Season 3 of The Eden Podcast.
Do you want to go deeper? The form of Genesis 2-3 as pointed out by Dr. Joy Fleming is part of the guiding insights in The Book of Eden, Genesis 2-3 which is available now, as is Book Two, Beyond Eden, Ephesians 5-6.
We look into the form and meaning of 1 Timothy 2:8-3:16 in Book Three of The Eden Book Series. It is Back to Eden, 1 Timothy 2-3 and it will be available soon!
Bruce C. E. Fleming
Founder of the Tru316 Project
Instructor of the new Mini Course: “Did God Blame Eve?”