Why did Paul bring up Adam and Eve in 1 Timothy 2:13-15? by Bruce C. E. Fleming
Here’s an excerpt from my forthcoming book: Back to Eden, 1 Timothy 2-3.
“What’s this doing here?” is what many ask when they come across the verses that are numbered as 1 Timothy 2:13-15. They ask, “Why do we find these words in this place?”
– Why does Paul here bring up the Garden of Eden, and Adam and Eve?
– Did Adam and Eve have something to do with the wayward women leaders Timothy was correcting in Ephesus? What?
– Where in the text does the reference to Eden end in these verses?
– Why does Paul bring up “the childbearing” in verse 15a?
– And who are “they” in verse 15b?
These questions can all be answered when we look at the context and the main actions Paul is recommending in 1 Timothy 2:8 to 3:16. We can answer them because we are not wandering in the weeds looking for answers to the wrong questions, which I’m afraid so many have done.
Let’s review the literary structure of the passage Paul used to present these ideas. As we do, we will see where verses 13-15 belong in the development of Paul’s thought.
In 1 Timothy 2:8-3:16, Paul has not written using a linear progression of ideas in a “1, 2, 3” manner. He has written using a rainbow pattern of parallel ideas. The main idea is in the middle. On either side are ideas that echo and complete each other.
Many people study these verses and start only at verse 9. But verse 9 has no verb and begins with “likewise.” Therefore we have to start with verse 8. After verse 8 come verses 9-15 which are Paul’s focused advice about correcting-in-order-to- restore-to-ministry the subgroup of wayward women overseers in Ephesus.
In verse 8 Paul gives a command to Timothy. He wishes for the wayward men overseers to preach and pray in public worship with holy hands (not tainted by sin) and with sound doctrine, which is not a source of angry disputing.
In verses 9-12, Paul gives a parallel command to Timothy. He wishes for the wayward women overseers to preach and pray in public worship with proper outward dress and behavior.
In verse 11 Paul makes use of this passage’s only imperative verb where he says, Let these women learn! as good students paying attention. Then, Paul opens a parenthesis in verses 13-15a before he returns in 15b to advice that parallels his earlier comments in verses 9a and 10. That advice concerned the formerly wayward women overseers Timothy was to retrain and restore to ministry.
Verses 13-15a serve as a digression. In them Paul justifies the course of action he is recommending. He explains why he is prescribing such gentle correction for them.
Remember, with the wayward leaders Hymenaeus and Alexander back in 1 Timothy 1:20, Paul turned them over to Satan to be taught. But with these women wayward overseers he is recommending a very different kind of teaching. They are not being handed over to Satan to be taught. Timothy is to let them learn and be retrained by Timothy himself, or by Priscilla, or by other faithful overseers in the church at Ephesus.
Here’s my paraphrase of verses 13-15a in the context of verses 2:11 to 3:1
11 Let the women overseers who were wayward learn in quietness and with all studiousness. 12 I am not permitting them to teach men in an incorrect way, but to be retrained in quietness.
13 Why? For, God formed the two in the Garden, Adam and then Eve 14 and Adam was a first-degree eater. He was not deceived but rebelled on purpose. But Eve was deceived and only as a second-degree sinner did she become a transgressor.
15 She, Eve, would be saved through the birth of the Child who was to come. So will the women you are retraining as long as they persevere in faith, love, sanctification and self-control.
3:1 “Faithful is Jesus the Logos, the Word!” So if any one of those you are correcting aspires to oversight, that woman or that man desires a good work!
© Bruce C. E. Fleming, January 9, 2022
Founder of the Tru316 Project, Tru316.com