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THE PROMINENCE OF WOMEN IN THE CULTS OF EPHESUS
Posted by Marg | Sep 20, 2014 | 1 Timothy 2:12, All Posts on Equality, Greco-Roman Culture, Paul and Women | 11 
 
Tags: Ancient Ephesus, Artemis, First Timothy, Women in the Early Church
Not all women were quiet and housebound in the first-century Greco-Roman world, the setting of the New Testament. The writer of Acts tells us there were prominent, leading women in Pisidian Antioch in Asia Minor (Acts 13:50), and in the Macedonian towns of Thessalonica (Acts 17:4) and Berea (Acts 17:12).[1] Other New Testament verses also indicate that there were women who had clout and influence in their cities, communities, and churches.[2]
 
The prominence of women in the ancient city of Ephesus often comes up in discussions about the context of 1 Timothy 2:9-15. Some believe that the culture of prominent women in the pagan cults of Artemis Ephesia and of Hestia Boulaia influenced Christian women and gave them a troublesome boldness in the church during the time Timothy was in Ephesus as Paul’s envoy, and so Paul’s instructions concerning women in First Timothy should be understood against the cultural background of prominent, powerful women. It is not clear, however, just how powerful Ephesian women could be in the first century.
 
Did prominent women in the pagan cults of Ephesus influence Christian women in the church?
 
Rick Strelan, in his book Paul, Artemis, and the Jews in Ephesus, writes about women’s roles in pagan cults, and he quotes from various scholars.
 
In terms of cultic life in Ephesus, it is clear that women played a significant role and held important offices in many cults. The mythology of Ephesus [including the myth that Ephesus was founded by warrior women known as Amazons] bolstered their status in the Artemis cult. According to Pausanias, from very early days, if not originally, the Amazon women resided at the sacred place and performed rituals to Artemis there (7.2.4). Cultic activity for women was more prominent in Asia Minor than elsewhere (Ramsay 1900:67). Kearsley notes that the fifteen women who were archiereiai (“chief priests” or “high priests”) in Ephesus is the largest group known from any city (1986:186). At least some held the title in their own right and were not dependent on the title of their husbands. Women were prominent in the Artemis cults as priestesses; and in the cult of Hestia Boulaia in the civic centre of Ephesus, the influential position of prytanis is known to have been held by women (for example, Claudia Trophime I.Eph IV.1012). Favonia Flacilla was both prytanis and gymnasiarchos (I.Eph IV.1060).[3]
 
A prytanis was a priest or priestess who ministered in the Prytaneion. The Prytaneion was a large administrative building situated in “a central position in the Upper Agora and was the home of Hestia Boulaia with the sacred fire of the city.”[4] Paul Trebilco states that “In Asia Minor twenty-eight women were known to have held the position of prytanis (a position of very high rank involving the finances and cultic life of the city) in eight cities of the first three centuries of the Common Era.”[5] While we have evidence for twenty-eight, there may have been even more women who held this office. In his commentary on Ephesians, Clinton Arnold explains that the prytanis “was similar to the mayor of a city, and this office holder presided over the town council.”[6] Thus, the priest or priestess of a Greco-Roman city, including the city of Ephesus, exercised “liturgical authority in parallel to the legislative, judicial, financial or military authority of the city’s officials.”[7] Political and religious activities were intertwined in the Greco-Roman world.
 
We know of 15 women who were high priestesses in the cult of Artemis in Ephesus.
 
 
The prominence of women in the cultic life of Ephesus 
 
The remains of the Prytaneion of Ancient Ephesus :copyright: M. Steskal 2006
(Source: Wikimedia Commons)
 
S.M. Baugh presents a different view of Ephesian women. He presents them as possessing the virtues of the respectable Roman matron—quietness and modesty, and not as being either powerful or prominent. I doubt, however, that a high degree of quiet respectability was uniformly typical among Ephesian women. There are many indications (from ancient statues found in Ephesus, etc) that the “new Roman woman”, with new social freedoms and powers, was making her influence felt among the wealthier Ephesian women. The passage in 1 Timothy 2:9-10, where wealthy women in the Ephesian church are given corrective instructions, is another indication that not all women in Ephesus were the epitome of sophrosune—modest propriety.
 
Baugh comments on the evidence of inscriptions and somewhat downplays the significance of women office holders, and the titles and positions they held, but he concedes:
 
Nevertheless, Ephesian women and girls do appear in some official capacities, not just as the honorably mentioned wives of patriarchs and patrons. Evidence to this effect picks up in the first century AD, so we cannot trace it to a long-standing emphasis on a “feminine principle” connected to Amazons, Ephesian culture, or Artemis Ephesia. Upon examination, we find a few first-century women filling one or more of four offices: priestess of Artemis, kosmeteira, prytanis, and high priestess of Asia.[8]
 
There are considerable difficulties in working out the relevance of women officeholders in the Ephesian cults to women in the Ephesian church. The pagan officeholders were all, without exception, from elite families,[9] whereas the Christian women in churches founded by Paul were from a range of classes. According to Wayne Meeks, members of Pauline churches were from a broad cross-section of society, ranging from wealthy men and women to poor slaves, with many people being artisans, as was Paul himself.[10] However, we know that Paul had friends in Ephesus who were Asiarchs, elite, wealthy and prominent member of society, who were presumably Christians (Acts 19:31). Wealthy Ephesian women may have felt emboldened by the example of the pagan priestesses, but it unlikely that this was the case for the majority of Christian women who were from poorer classes.
 
Another difficulty is knowing whether, or how, the foundation myths of Ephesus influenced attitudes in daily life, especially as several myths contradict each other.[11] I suggest that the influence of the Amazonian myth on first-century Ephesian society has been exaggerated by some.[12] Did the Ephesians really identify their women with Amazonian warrior women? Or, conversely, did they treat the Amazonian myth as we treat Santa Claus, for example, as a bit of fun that encourages social cohesion? Did the myths truly bolster the status of women in Ephesus? Or did women mostly conform to the more limited expectations of broader Greco-Roman society? We do not have enough information to give definitive answers to these questions.
 
Did the myth of Amazonian warrior women really boost the status of Ephesian women
 
My friend Lyn Kidson, who did her PhD on First Timothy, rightly suggests that we should be investigating the social value placed on being a priestess and the kind of virtues that were celebrated in the selection of the women who held this role. This investigation may give us a better indication of the place of women in Ephesian society.
 
The status and roles of women in Ephesus is an area of study that continues to be investigated by scholars, and I look forward to learning more about it. In the meantime, as I explore the first century Greco-Roman setting of the New Testament for myself, and use this information to help me understand the biblical text (including 1 Timothy 2:12), I want to be cautious and avoid making overstatements about life in the first-century church that may be misleading.
 
FOOTNOTES
[1] Other inscriptions of interest: IvE 892 (McCabe Ephesos 1266) and IvE 980 (McCabe Ephesos 1267).
 
[2] Articles on women leaders in the New Testament church here. An article on Paul’s greetings to women ministers here.
 
[3] Rick Streland, Paul, Artemis and the Jews in Ephesus (Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter & Co., 1996), 120. You can read relevant pages from this book here.
 
Ros Kearsley writes,
 
The change towards more female prytaneis begins to occur during the Augustan period, and the prytaneis‘ primary function in Ephesus the city . . . was to keep the fire burning on the sacred hearth of the city. In this sense, the prytanis performed a similar function to the college of Vestal Virgins in Rome.’
R.A. Kearsley, “Women and Public Life in Imperial Asia Minor: Hellenistic Tradition and Augustan Ideology”, Ancient West and East, 4.1 ( 2005), 98-121, 110.
 
[4] Guy MacLean Rogers, The Sacred Identity of Ephesos: The Myths of a Roman City (London: Routledge, 1991), 67.
 
[5] Paul Trebilco, Jewish Communities in Asia Minor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 120.
 
[6] Clinton E. Arnold, Ephesians, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Volume 10 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 375. You can read relevant pages from this book here.
 
[7] L. Bruit Zaidman and P. Schmitt Pantel, Religion in the Ancient Greek City (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 49. Quoted by Andrew D. Clarke in Serve the Community of the Church: Christians as Leaders and Ministers (Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2000), 29.
 
[8] S.M. Baugh, “A Foreign World: Ephesus in the First Century”, in A.J. Köstenberger & T.R. Schreiner (Eds.), Women in the Church: An Analysis and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9–15, Second Edition, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 28.
 
[9] Guy Maclean Rogers (commenting about the generous endowment of Salutaris for a celebration in 104 CE) states:
 
The priestess of Artemis appears as the chief official of the cult of AD 104. She was in charge of the liturgy of the cult, and several different priestesses claimed to have celebrated the mysteries during the first and second centuries AD . . . These priestesses came from prominent local families of wealth, and were represented in inscriptions spread throughout the city as daughters and wives of asiarchs, neopoioi, and Roman citizens, often for generations. Often, but not exclusively, family wealth was used to fulfil the functions of the priesthood, which included the erection of buildings, and over civic projects, entailing great expense.
Rogers, Sacred Identity of Ephesos, 54-55.
 
[10] See Wayne Meeks’ discussion in chapter two of The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle World (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983)
 
[11] We have evidence that the foundation myth concerning Androcles was celebrated by the Ephesians in the first and second centuries CE. Androcles, believed to have been the son of the king of Athens, led an Ionian immigration to the region in around 1100 BCE. He supposedly founded Ephesus on the site where he caught and killed a wild boar. Evidence of any celebration of the myth of Amazons in the first century CE is slight. See Rogers, Sacred Identity of Ephesos.
Historian Mary Beard makes this general comment about the Amazon myth:
“An enormous amount of modern feminist energy has been wasted on trying to prove that these Amazons did once exist, with all the seductive possibilities of a historical society that really was ruled by and for women. Dream on. The hard truth is that the Amazons were a Greek male myth. The basic message was that the only good Amazon was a dead one . . . or one that had been mastered in the bedroom.”
Mary Beard, “Women in Power: From Medusa to Merkel” in London Review of Books 39.6 (16 March 2017), 9-14.
 
[12] Andrew D. Clarke writes about the importance of myths in the Eastern cities of the Roman Empire.
 
Following the decline of the great Hellenistic era and the subsequent rise of Roman domination in the East, it is unsurprising that many of the long established cities endeavoured to maintain links with their cherished past by fostering myths which celebrated the ancient foundation of their community. It was, after all, those in the East (as opposed to the Roman West) who had an ancient imperial heritage to which they could turn, and which they could refashion to their advantage in their new political climate. Even some of the more recently founded cities followed suit and adopted myths of their own.
Serve the Community of the Church: Christians as Leaders and Ministers (Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2000), 24.
https://margmowczko.com/the-prominence-of-women-in-the-cultic-life-of-ephesus/
 


1 TIMOTHY 2:12 IN CONTEXT: ARTEMIS OF EPHESUS AND HER TEMPLE
Posted by Marg | Apr 17, 2013 | 1 Timothy 2:12, All Posts on Equality, Church History, Paul and Women, The "Difficult" Passages | 9 

Tags: 1 Timothy 2:12 in Context, Ancient Ephesus, Artemis

https://margmowczko.com/1-timothy-212-in-context-2/
PART 2: ARTEMIS OF EPHESUS AND HER TEMPLE
THE TEMPLE OF ARTEMIS IN THE FIRST CENTURY AD
Ancient Ephesus was the largest city of Asia Minor and, in the first century AD, may have had a population of around one hundred thousand. The city had a busy sea port, and was situated at a junction of two major roads that led to the interior of Asia Minor. “Owing to its strategic geographical position, Ephesus served the Roman senatorial province of Asia as the center for commerce and communication.” (Arnold 1989:13)

The Ephesians were well known across the Greco-Roman world for their enthusiastic devotion to the goddess Artemis and for their magnificent temple dedicated to her. The temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and “was the largest building in the Greek world, about four times larger than the Athenian Parthenon.” (Baugh 2005:19) Made of solid marble, the dimensions of this monumental building were 115 metres by 55 metres. The temple’s 127 Ionic columns were 18 metres tall and decorated with ornate friezes, brilliantly gilded in silver and gold. The altar was large enough to sacrifice hundreds of animals simultaneously. (LiDonnici 1999:85)

As well as being a place where religious rituals were performed, the temple served as one of the largest banks of the ancient world. And it was “internationally recognized as the place of refuge” for those seeking protection and asylum. (Murphy-O’Connor 2008:44) Furthermore, the temple was “filled with great works of art” (Rogers 2012:7). The temple attracted many thousands of visitors each year, bringing wealth into the city. (See endnote 1 for more information on the Ephesian temple.)

Miniature model of the Artemis temple without the decorative gilding. (Wikimedia Commons)

ARTEMIS OF EPHESUS
Understanding the Ephesian Culture and ArtemisSeveral statues stood in the temple, including a large cult statue of the goddess Artemis. Approximately four hundred statues and figurines of her still survive today. These show the goddess wearing an elaborate costume which features a crown resembling her temple, various real and mythical animals on her skirt (lions, griffins, horses, bulls, and bees), garlands around her neck, and numerous bumps on her midriff. These bumps are interpreted differently by scholars. Some have thought they were breasts, others suggest they may be bull’s testicles or bee’s eggs.[2] (More on the costume of Artemis here.)

The Ephesian Artemis (also called Diana) should not be confused with the Greek Artemis (or Diana.) The Greek Artemis/Diana was a hunter.[3] The Ephesian Artemis/Diana, however, was unlike Greek gods or goddesses. She probably originated as a tree spirit and may have shared some attributes with other gods and goddesses of Anatolia. After the Ionians settled in Ephesus in around 1100 BC, they named the indigenous goddess after their Greek goddess Artemis.[4]

The Ephesian Artemis was believed to have the power to bring new life into the world and to take life away. There is no real evidence that she was a mother goddess,[5] but several ancient documents reveal that she was believed to be a “midwife”.[6] It was thought she helped women and animals in labour. Ephesian women would call on Artemis during childbirth to speed up the labour and ease the pain, or, in dire circumstances, they would call on her to bring about a quick death to end their suffering (e.g., Acts of Andrew 25). Artemis was also the champion and protector of virgins, both male and female.[7] She was considered a virgin and, unlike mother goddesses, she was not associated with any male consort or god.

During the syncretistic Hellenistic period, Artemis Ephesia and her cult took on some Greek features and she was increasingly conflated with the Greek Artemis. Like the Greek Artemis, the Ephesian Artemis was seen as the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and as the twin sister of Apollo (whom she delivered despite being only a few days older than her brother.) The Ephesian and Greek Artemises shared the same birthday, the 6th of May. On this day each year, the Ephesians held a festive procession, performed special rituals, and participated in other celebrations.

During the Roman period, the goddess and her cult took on some Roman features. Most noticeably, she was increasingly called “Diana”, the Roman name for both the Ephesian and Greek Artemises.

The goddess continued to change and evolve. Still, the Ephesians regarded their goddess with deep devotion and warm affection, and she influenced many aspects of Ephesian life in ways that are difficult for us to imagine.[8] “There was no other Greco-Roman metropolis in the Empire whose ‘body, soul and spirit’ could so belong to a particular deity as did Ephesus to her patron goddess Artemis.” (Oster 1990:1728)

PAUL IN EPHESUS
Paul visited Ephesus several times. In around 57–58 AD, he stayed there for over two years as part of his third missionary journey. (See Acts chapter 19.)[9] Paul’s effectiveness and success in spreading the gospel in Ephesus meant that some people were turning away from the cult of Artemis and converting to Christianity. Some Ephesians were also turning away from magic: “A number who practised magic collected their books and burned them publicly; when the value of these books was calculated, it was found to come to fifty thousand silver coins” (Acts 19:19).

This defection from Artemis threatened the businesses of the people who made shrines and statues of Artemis. One of these business proprietors was a wealthy silversmith named Demetrius. Ephesus was famous for its silversmiths who, as well as making shrines of Artemis, made miniature replicas of the temple and amulets inscribed with magic words.[10] Concerned that he would lose his livelihood, Demetrius addressed his fellow artisans. Part of his address shows the widespread regard for Artemis Ephesia: he said, “And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be scorned, and she will be deprived of her majesty that brought all Asia and the world to worship her” (Acts 19:27).

Demetrius incited a furious uprising, and for two hours the angry crowd shouted in unison: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” (Acts 19:34). The town clerk then quieted the crowd and spoke to them drawing attention to unique relationship the Ephesians had with their own unique goddess: “Citizens of Ephesus, who is there that does not know that the city of the Ephesians is the temple keeper of the great Artemis and of the statue that fell from heaven? Since these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash” (Acts 19:35).

Despite the pervasive presence and formidable force of Artemis, a strong church was established in Ephesus. But there would be problems. In the late first century, the teaching that Paul had brought to the city was being threatened. This may, or may not, have had something to do with the goddess, as we will see in Part Three.

ENDNOTES
[1] The Temple of Artemis was destroyed and rebuilt several times. The first shrine to the goddess Artemis was probably built around 800 BC, and may have contained a sacred stone—possibly a meteorite (cf. Acts 19:35).

The next temple took 120 years to build and was partially funded by the proverbially wealthy King Croesus of Lydia who conquered Ephesus in 550 BC. This temple was destroyed on July 21, 356 BC in an act of arson. It was rebuilt in 323 BC with no expense spared. Writing in about 140 BC, Antipater of Sidon included the temple of Artemis Ephesia in his famous list of the Seven Wonders of World and spoke enthusiastically about its splendour:

I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the Colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, ‘Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand. (Antipater of Sidon, Greek Anthology 9.58).

The last temple was destroyed in around 262 AD “by a marauding band of Goths, from which Ephesus never fully recovered.” (S.M. Baugh 2005:14)

Bull's testicles in a butcher's shop.

These bulls’ testicles in a butcher’s shop closely resemble the oval-shaped objects on Artemis’s midriff.

[2] Robert Fleischer (1973) has shown that the bumps are not part of the goddess’s body but represent removable parts of her clothing or adornments. One suggestion accepted by some scholars is that the bumps are testicles from sacrificed bulls. The size and shape of the bumps closely match the relative size and shape of bull’s testicles.

1 Timothy 2:12 Artemis of EphesusAnother suggestion is that the bumps are bees’ eggs. Artemis was associated with bees and she has bees on her skirt. Sarah Pomeroy (1999:37) writes that “The bee was famous for purity and abstinence. Greeks thought that bees reproduced asexually; therefore they associated the insect with chastity.” Perhaps the bees are symbolic of the goddess’s virginal status. Furthermore, the bee was a symbol of Ephesus and this symbol appears on some Ephesian coins. Bees’ eggs, however, are relatively small in comparison with the oval objects on Artemis’s midriff. (More about Artemis’s clothing and its symbolism here.)

The illustration below depicts an above ground nest of the common bumble bee Bombus terrestris. It shows adults, larvae, eggs, and honeypots made from wax, all in a nest surrounded by leaves, grass and moss. The shape of the eggs matches the shape of the bumps on Artemis’s chest. (Engraving by William Home Lizars (1840) after a drawing probably by James Hope Stewart.) Source: Wikimedia Commons

1 Timothy 2:12 in Context (Part 2): Understanding the Ephesian Culture and Artemis

[3] Both the Greek and the Ephesian Artemis are also named Diana (the Roman name), which complicates easy identification. Jerome makes the distinction between the Greek Artemis/Diana, and the Ephesian Artemis/Diana. In his Commentary on Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, he writes:

He [Paul] wrote to the Ephesians who worshipped Diana. Not the huntress who holds the bow and is girded, but that multi-breasted Diana which the Greeks call πoλυμαστις [many breasts], so that, of course, on the basis of the statue itself they might also falsely assert that she is the nurse of all beasts and living beings. (Translated by Heine 2002:77)

Nevertheless, it seems that by the first century AD, the Ephesian Artemis/Diana had some association with hunting. In book one of Ephesiaca, Xenophon of Ephesus describes a procession as part of the annual festival for Artemis/Diana. As part of the procession, there were horses, hunting dogs and hunting equipment. (1.2.4) The beautiful fourteen-year-old heroine of the novel, Anthea, led the procession and wore, as part of her costume, a fawn skin from which hung a quiver of arrows. She also carried bows and javelins, and her hunting dogs followed. (1.2.6-7) Until recently, most scholars have thought that Xenophon lived and wrote in the second or third centuries AD, but more recent scholarship places Xenophon in the first century AD. If so, this makes him a contemporary of Paul.

[4] There are many goddesses called Artemis associated with different ancient cities. Each of these goddesses has an individual identity and distinct cult, but a few may have had some connection with Artemis Ephesia. Clement of Alexandria identifies some of these other goddesses (with odd sounding epithets):

An Artemis, named “the Strangled”, is worshipped by the Arcadians, as Callimachus says in his Book of Causes; and at Methymna another Artemis had divine honours paid her, namely, Artemis Condylitis. There is also the temple of another Artemis, Artemis Podagra or “the Gout”, in Laconica . . .  The Argives and Spartans reverence Artemis Chelytis, or “the Cougher”, from keluttein, which in their speech signifies to cough.
From Chapter 2 of “Exhortation to the Heathen” by Clement of Alexandria.

Clement also identifies a Tauric Artemis in chapter 3 and the Ephesian Artemis in chapter 4. The Ephesian Artemis was the most well known of these goddesses in the first century AD, and should not be confused or conflated with other goddesses called Artemis who copied either the Greek or Ephesian Artemis. Furthermore, there was an Artemis worshipped by the Macedonians well before the Hellenistic period (320-20 BC). The Seleucid kings introduced this goddess to the lands they controlled.

[5] More recent scholars regard Artemis as a saviour goddess (e.g., Rogers 2012:7). It was previously thought, however, that Artemis of Ephesus had some similarities with ancient mother goddesses. The mother goddess is one of the oldest and most pervasive religious concepts of the ancient Near and Middle East, and she was regarded as the universal mother of all life. In Phrygia, the mother goddess was called Cybele. The Ephesian Artemis is sometimes too closely compared with the Phrygian Cybele. The cult of Artemis Ephesia in the first century AD was distinct from the cult of Cybele. Cybele was just one of many gods and goddesses worshipped in Ephesus.
In Syria, the mother goddess was called Atargatis. In Babylon and Assyria, she was called Ishtar. In Phoenicia, she was called Astarte. In archaic Canaan, she was called Asherah, a name that appears too frequently in the Old Testament. (The ancient Israelites worshipped Asherah and her consort Baal when they fell into pagan idolatry.) This Canaanite goddess embodied fertility, and some scholars believe sacred sexual intercourse was a ritual in which divine propagation of life was portrayed. In the Old Testament, pagan practices meshed with orthodox worship practices in which shrine prostitutes became involved. (See 2 Kings 23:7; also 1 Kings 14:22-24; Gen. 38, esp. 38:21; 1 Sam. 2:22 cf. Deut. 23:17-18.)
Scholars have debated whether ritual prostitution was part of the Artemis cult, but there is simply no evidence for such a practice. S. M. Baugh (1999:449) notes that “Strabo, Pliny the Elder, Dio Chrysostom, Pausanias, Xenophon of Ephesus, Achilles Tatius, nor any other ancient author speaks explicitly or even hints at cult prostitution in either the narrow or broad sense in Ephesus of any period.”

[6] On July 21, 356 BC, the temple of Artemis was destroyed by fire. The reason given for this catastrophe was that Artemis was away from her city and acting as midwife in the delivery of Alexander the Great who was born on the same night. In his Life of Alexander 3.6, Plutarch records Hegesias the Magnesian as saying, “It was no wonder that the temple of Artemis was burned down, since the goddess was busy bringing Alexander into the world.” Part of Artemis mythology, of both the Greek and Ephesian Artemis, is that the goddess delivered her twin brother, Apollos. (Gods and goddesses are born as fully functioning “adults” and not as babies.) Furthermore, in the apocryphal Acts of Andrew 25, a woman prays to the Ephesian Artemis to speed along her sister’s labour. (See endnote 7 also.)

[7] “A lengthy record of a second-century AD oracle gives Artemis Ephesia’s epithets in classic Homeric form and terms. She is ‘the virgin’ (παρθένον, line 14), the ‘renowned, vigilant maiden’ (line 12), and ‘Artemis the pure’ (line 16). As the goddess who watches over childbirth, she is the ‘midwife of birth and grower of mortals’ and the ‘giver of fruit’ (lines 3–4).” (Baugh 2005:25) In lines 11 and 12 of this oracle, Artemis is described as a huntress indicating that by the second century AD she shared some traits with, and had been conflated with, the Greco-Roman Artemis/Diana. (See endnote 3 also.)

[8] Christine Thomas (1998:85) has calculated that of all the references to Ephesus in ancient Greek literature, “fully one-third of the passages referring to Ephesus or things Ephesian refer to the goddess, her sanctuary, or her cult personnel”. Devotion and affection for Artemis is portrayed especially in the Ephesus-centred novels by Xenophon and Achilles Tatius. It is also attested to in the numerous devotional inscriptions. Ephesus has been well studied, and there is a wealth of ancient documents and inscriptions concerning the city that survive to the present day. Paul Trebilco (2004:11) has estimated that over 4000 inscriptions have been discovered on the site of ancient Ephesus. Writing just over a decade later, S.M. Baugh (2016) estimates that we have approximately 6000 inscriptions from Ephesus.

[9] See especially Acts 19:24-28, 35-37. As well as Paul, many well-known New Testament figures ministered at Ephesus. Priscilla and Aquila had a house church there. Apollos and Timothy ministered there. Towards the end of their lives, the apostle John and perhaps Mary the mother of Jesus lived at Ephesus. Tradition holds that both were buried there. It is believed that John wrote his gospel from Ephesus.

[10] The Ephesia Grammata (literally “Ephesian letters of the alphabet”) were six “magic” words. The Ephesia Grammata was supposedly engraved on the statue of Artemis of Ephesus (Pausanias, ap. Eust. Od. 19,247). But no evidence has been found to corroborate Pausanias’s statement. The six words are provided by Clement of Alexandria in his Stromata 5.42: askion, kataskion, lix, tetrax, damnameneus, aisia. Because there was no apparent meaning to the words, even in antiquity, they fostered intense speculation. Yet they were used both orally and in written form to ward off evil, and to bring protection and safety or salvation. For example, they were spoken in exorcisms (Plutarch’s Moralia 706 de), and spoken over a bridal couple for their protection (Men. Fr. 313). (Fritz Graf; Murphy-O’Connor 2008:51) Arnold (1989:24) writes that the Ephesia Grammata were sometimes used as a love spell to help seduce unwilling lovers, and he states that Ephesus was a centre for magic arts. Strelan (1996:86ff), however, disputes that Ephesus was a centre of the magic arts.

© 8th of December 2009, revised April 2016, Margaret Mowczko


PART 3: THE HERESY IN THE EPHESIAN CHURCH
PAUL’S REASON FOR WRITING TO TIMOTHY 
Paul declares his primary reason for writing to Timothy right at the beginning of his letter. After a customary greeting Paul writes:

“. . . stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false [or, other] doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. 1 Timothy 1:3-4a (NIV 2011, underlines added)

1 Timothy 2:12 in Context: The Heresy in the Ephesian ChurchPaul was concerned because “the pure and sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5) he had brought to Ephesus was being tarnished and corrupted. Men and women within the Ephesian church were teaching and spreading doctrines that were different to Paul’s teaching, and so he wrote to Timothy—who was ministering in Ephesus at that time—and advised him about these people and their doctrines.

It is possible that some of these false teachings were influenced by myths related to the Ephesian goddess Artemis. Paul may have been referring to these myths when he told Timothy to “shun the profane and old-womanish myths” (1 Tim. 4:7).[2] [More about Artemis in Part Two.]

Wherever the gospel has gone, many new believers have found it difficult to quickly and completely let go of long-held beliefs and ancient superstitions, especially as religious beliefs and practices were usually closely interwoven with the local culture and daily customs of family and community life.

One way of dealing with new beliefs is to syncretise them with old beliefs. In Roman Catholicism, for example, many of the “Madonnas” or “Our Ladies” started off as local pagan goddesses that were later morphed into “Marys” when Christianity came.[3] There is no evidence for the Ephesian Artemis being morphed into Mary or being incorporated into a Christian heresy. On the other hand, in a few ancient documents, we see that some Christians were conferring on Eve an almost divine status. We will come back to Eve below.

HELLENISM AND SYNCRETISM 
During the Hellenistic period (c. 320–30 BC), the classical forms of Greek religion were increasingly influenced by foreign religions, especially Near-Eastern religions with their elements of initiation, mysteries, salvation, and asceticism. And the great goddess, or feminine principle, was universally sovereign.[4] A resurgence of interest in Greek philosophy also had an influence on religion. In the Hellenistic Greek world, and later in the Roman Empire, both Greek and Eastern religious ideas, as well as philosophy, influenced local indigenous cults, including the Ephesian cult of Artemis.

The merging of different religious practices and ideologies (syncretism) was a feature of the Hellenistic period. This syncretism paved the way for various schools of thought known as Christian Gnosticism. Gnosticism threatened more orthodox expressions of Christianity in the second and third centuries AD.[5] I strongly suspect the false teaching in the Ephesian church involved a syncretistic, or perhaps an early Gnostic, heresy.

CHRISTIAN GNOSTICISM AND THE EARLY CHURCH
The word “Gnosticism” comes from the Greek word gnosis which literally means “knowledge”. Gnostics believe that it is special knowledge that brings salvation. This knowledge is secret and esoteric, however. It is only accessible to the elite few who can achieve transcendence through knowledge of, or acquaintance with, the divine. [More about Gnosticism in endnote 6]

Tertullian (160-220) identified the false teaching in the Ephesian church as an early, emerging form of Gnosticism. In his description of a developed Gnostic heresy, Tertullian used Paul’s own expression of “myths and endless genealogies”, and he added, “which the inspired apostle [Paul] by anticipation condemned, whilst the seeds of heresy were even then shooting forth.”[7] Irenaeus, writing in about 180, also identified the false teaching in the first-century Ephesian church as a kind of Gnosticism.[8] However, it is possible that Tertullian and Irenaeus were projecting the Gnostic heresies of the late second century back on to the late first-century Ephesian church.

Nevertheless, the “endless genealogies” that Paul mentions in 1 Timothy 1:4 might refer to a concept similar to that of the complex series of emanations, or aeons, that is a feature in some Gnostic teachings. [See endnote 9 for another explanation of the “endless genealogies.”] These aeons were seen as a series of links between the supreme God (an unknowable, pure spirit) and humanity. Rather than numerous aeons, however, Paul states in 1 Timothy 2:5: “There is one God and one mediator between God and humanity—the human being Jesus Christ.”[10]

Christian Gnostics borrowed ideas from Greek philosophy and pagan faiths, which were blended with Christian concepts. While the heresy in the Ephesian church may have incorporated some pagan beliefs or practices from the cult of Artemis, there is no concrete evidence of this.

GNOSTIC INTERPRETATIONS OF THE GENESIS CREATION ACCOUNTS
Early Christian Gnostics, most of whom were Jewish, incorporated aspects of Judaism and the Old Testament Law, or Torah, into their beliefs. In 1 Timothy we are told that the Law was being misused by some in Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:6-11).[11]

The teachings Irenaeus attributes to the Gnostics includes “retellings of the Genesis stories of the creation, Adam and Eve, and the fall.”[12] The ancient Gnostic texts found in Nag Hammadi in Egypt in 1945 confirms Irenaeus’s observations. These texts show that the creation stories were interpreted freely and allegorically. For example, “Gnostics often depicted Eve—or the feminine spiritual power she represented—as the source of spiritual awakening.”[13] Eve as “spirit” was frequently seen as bringing life when united with Adam’s “soul”.

There are several surviving Gnostic creation accounts that give Eve primacy over Adam.[14] Moreover, Eve was a heroine to the Gnostics because she desired knowledge (gnōsis) (Gen. 3:6).

Paul closes his first letter to Timothy with one final exhortation concerning this serious issue of a Gnostic-like heresy:

“O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding profane chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge (gnōsis)” which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith. Grace be with you.” 1 Timothy 6:20-21 (NASB, underline added.)

All this information so far may be helpful if we want to understand the meaning and significance of 1 Timothy 2:12 and the verses surrounding it. In Part Four we begin going through 1 Timothy 2:11-15, verse by verse.

FOOTNOTES
[1] Note that “certain men” used in the NIV 1984 translation of this verse is not a completely accurate translation from the Greek. A more faithful translation could read “certain ones” or “certain people”. The new NIV (2011) has translated it as “certain people”. Women were among those spreading profane stories and myths in the Ephesian church (e.g., 1 Tim. 5:13-15).
Cynthia Westfall notes, “Historically, older women are often the story bearers of the culture, and they transmit the culture from generation to generation through myths, fairy tales, and lore that are repeated in front of the hearth and at bedtime.” Cynthia Long Westfall, Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016), 302-303.

[2] Paul uses the word “profane” (bebēlos) a few times to describe the false teaching in the Ephesian church: 1 Timothy 4:7; 6:20; 2 Timothy 2:16. See also 1 Timothy 1:9. Bebēlos means ungodly, profane, and heathenish. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–c. 215) used the same expression as in 1 Timothy 4:7, “old wives tales” (or, “old womanish myths”), in reference to occult practices. (Paedagogus, Book 3, Chapter 4)

[3] Luther H. Martin notes that the fusion of Mary with a pagan goddess is exemplified in the case of Isis. The Hellenistic mysteries of the Egyptian goddess Isis became universal in the Greco-Roman world, and survived until the imperial prohibition of pagan religions in the fourth century AD. Martin writes, “In one sense, however, Isis survived even Christian dominance, for together with her divine son Horus, she is remembered in the sentiment and iconography of Roman Catholic Mariology.” Luther H., Hellenistic Religions: An Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), 72.

[4] Luther H. Martin, Hellenistic Religions: An Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), 81.

[5] Scholars are increasingly reluctant to call syncretistic religious beliefs before the second century AD “Gnosticism”. In the context of the letter to the Ephesians, which, like the letters to Timothy, was written in the late first century, Clinton Arnold is wary about the calling the heresy in Ephesus “Gnosticism” but concedes:

A total dismissal of all Gnostic interpretation of Ephesians would not be a proper conclusion to draw . . . . Even if the thoroughgoing dualism characteristic of fully developed Gnosis cannot be demonstrated before A.D. 135 . . . , other streams of religious influence (with permutations already in process) may have existed which had a profound impact on developing Gnosis. One or a number of these merging streams may have been converging in the first century forming the beginning of Gnosis.
Clinton E., Ephesians: Power and Magic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 12.

E.E. Ellis believes the “teachers of the law” criticised in 1 Timothy 1:9 were gnosticising judaisers (cf. Tit. 1:10) who,

. . . apparently no longer stressed, as in Galatians, the duty of circumcision. They forbade marriage, promoted food laws and claimed to impart spiritual “knowledge” (gnosis) whose source was, in the words of an oracle applied to them, demonic spirits (1 Tim 4:1-3; 6:20). They represented one stage of a continuing counter-mission which appears in Ignatius (Magn. 8-11; Trall. 9; c.110) as a kind of “Judaism crossed with Gnosticism” (Lightfoot) that denied  not only Christ’s resurrection but also his physical incarnation and death, and which later developed or merged into the full-blown Gnostic heresies.
E.E. Ellis, “Pastoral Epistles,” Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, Gerald Hawthorne and Ralph Martin (eds) (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 658-666, 663.

[6] Gnosticism rapidly grew at the same time, and in many of the same places, where the gospel was advancing. It would develop into highly organised and complicated mythological systems during the second and third centuries. However, the beginnings of gnostic-like beliefs are evident in the New Testament. Several New Testament letters address various problems associated with gnostic-like beliefs, in particular, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, 2 Peter and John’s letters. [See previous footnote.]

There was not one religion or one sect of Gnosticism but several schools of thought that shared some similar ideas. Broadly speaking, Gnostics held to a complex cosmology with numerous divine entities, and they held to a creation myth that was quite unlike the creation accounts in the Bible but nevertheless derived from Genesis chapters 1-6. Like Platonists, they believed that matter was bad, or not real, and that spirit was good and truth. They believed that salvation was achieved when one ascended to the realm of the deities and became acquainted with, or had knowledge of the divine, at which time the divine spark, or spirit, or mind was released from its material earthly body. Gnosticism was elitist and exclusive, and the claim was that only a few people could achieve gnosis. For the Gnostics, Christ is a divine being, one of many aeons. Still, he is the redeemer who revealed the true truth necessary for salvation. This “truth” is that some people are themselves divine or contain a divine spark.

[7] Tertullian provides a detailed account and refutation of the Valentinians. (Some scholars consider the Valentinians as Gnostic, while other scholars assert they borrowed ideas from Gnostics but were not Gnostics themselves.) In chapter 3 of Against the Valentinians (c. 200-220), Tertullian writes, “. . . as soon as he finds so many names of aeons, so many marriages, so many offsprings, so many exits, so many issues, felicities and infelicities of a dispersed and mutilated deity, will that man hesitate at once to pronounce that these are ‘the fables and endless genealogies’ which the inspired apostle by anticipation condemned, while these seeds of heresy were even then shooting forth?”

[8] Irenaeus wrote a five-volume work (c. 180) in which he identified and refuted several sects, or systems, of Gnosticism. This work is commonly called Against Heresies; however, its true or full title is: On the Detection and Overthrow of the Falsely-called Knowledge (Greek: Gnōsis). Irenaeus exactly copied Paul’s expression from 1 Timothy 6:20, “falsely-called knowledge”, for the title. This work opens with Irenaeus remarking on “endless genealogies”, a phrase copied from 1 Timothy 1:4. Irenaeus recognised traits of Gnosticism in 1 Timothy.
Eusebius (263–339) also used Paul’s phrase of “falsely-called knowledge” when he mentions “the league of godless error [that] took its rise as a result of the folly of heretical teachers.” (Ecclesiastical History, Book 3.32.8) According to Eusebius, this occurred following the deaths of the first successors of the twelve apostles.

[9] Some heretical groups supposedly traced their origins back to Cain and Seth, the sons of Adam and Eve. Do the endless genealogies refer to this? In his words against the Cainites, Irenaeus mentions that they were keen to prove that their origin was derived from certain “mothers, fathers, and ancestors.” (Against Heresies 1.31.8)

[10] 1 Timothy 2:5 also addresses a Gnostic belief termed Docetism, which is that Jesus Christ did not really come in a human body of flesh but only seemed to be human. Also, the preceding verse states that God “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). The salvation Paul taught was for everyone: it was not reliant on secret knowledge and was not for the few who could achieve transcendence. Furthermore, God is portrayed positively in 1 Timothy, and not like the distant god of the Gnostics who was not nice.

[11] Some strains of Judaism were influenced by the teachings and practices of Jewish sorcerers and exorcists who were well known in the Greco-Roman world, including the cities of Asia Minor such as Ephesus. These apostate Jews combined Judaism with the occult (Acts 13:6-11; 19:13-19; cf. Simon Magus in Acts 8:9-15).

[12] David Brakke, The Gnostics: Myth, Ritual and Diversity in Early Christianity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010), 36.

[13] Elaine Pagels, Adam, Eve and the Serpent (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), 68.

[14] Gnostic texts from Nag Hammadi that give Eve primacy include: Apocryphon of John, Gospel of Philip, Hypostasis of the Archon, Thunder: Perfect Mind, and Apocalypse of Adam. These texts were penned in the second and third centuries, after First Timothy was written. More on these Gnostic texts here.

© 8th of December 2009, revised 5th of August 2010, Margaret Mowczko
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Does The Apostle Paul Hate Women?  Empty Does The Apostle Paul Hate Women?

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PART 4: 1 TIMOTHY 2:11-12—PHRASE BY PHRASE
So now we come to the passage that has been used by most of the church for most of its history to prohibit women from any ministry that involves teaching and leading men.

Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or domineer a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was created first and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. But she will be saved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity and self- restraint.  1 Timothy 2:11-15  

VERSE 11: A WOMAN SHOULD LEARN IN QUIETNESS AND FULL SUBMISSION.
Verse 11 is the only verse in this passage that contains a command:  “A woman should learn.” This verse is wonderful and revolutionary, considering many women at that time were not well educated and were not encouraged to learn. Note however, Paul is not saying here that women must learn. Woman is singular and not plural in verse 11. It could be that Paul is writing about a woman, that is, one particular woman who was not quiet and who was misbehaving in the Ephesian church.

Verse 11 includes the word “submission”. This is a common word in the New Testament and it is used in a variety of contexts. The concept of women being submissive has been greatly over-emphasised by many Christians, but submission is simply the opposite of rebellion. In verse 11 Paul is simply instructing a woman to learn in a quiet, respectable manner—the usual conduct of a good student—and not to be loud, offensive or rebellious. [My article on Submission here.]

VERSE 12A: I AM NOT ALLOWING A WOMAN TO TEACH . . .
Note again that the word for “woman” in verse 12 is singular and not plural. This verse is not saying that women cannot teach men, unless “woman” and “man” are understood generically as applying to all the Ephesian women and men.[1] It is important to note, however, that in the verses immediately preceding verses 11-12, Paul gives instructions to men and to women (plural). Why the marked shift from plural to singular?

Another point to consider here is that Paul does not use an imperative in 1 Timothy 2:12. Paul does not use any of the Greek command tenses in this verse. Instead he uses the present active indicative epitrepō with the negative ouk: “I am not allowing . . .”

Andrew Perriman (1993) notes that the use of epitrepō in the New Testament, in every case, is “. . . related to a specific and limited set of circumstances . . .”[2] Perriman goes on to say that, because of Paul’s choice of words, the instruction in verse 12 is more about [local] church governance and practise than theological authority. Moreover, Perriman believes verse 12 to be parenthetical and that Paul’s real concern is not with women teaching, but that the Ephesian women (or woman) should learn in such a way that they will not be deceived by false teachers. Perriman’s suggestion that Paul’s real concern was about women learning is worth considering; however, I am not fully convinced by it. [More on the use of epitrepō in the New Testament here.]

John E. Toews (1983) notes that the use of epitrepō in the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament), is likewise usually related to a “specific and limited situation rather than a universal one” (Gen. 39:6 LXX; Est. 9:14 LXX; Job 32:14 LXX; see also Wisdom 19:2; 1 Macc. 15:6; 4 Macc. 4:18). (Epitrepō in 4 Maccabees 5:26, however, is an exception and is not necessarily used in a limited sense.)

It could be that Paul’s instruction in 1 Timothy 2:12 was related to a specific, limited, local situation. The instruction may even have been limited to a particular woman in the Ephesian church.

1 Timothy 2:12 in Context: 1 Timothy 2:11-12 Phrase by Phrase (authentein)

Screen shot of the word AUTHENTEIN in 1 Timothy 2:12 as it appears in Codex Sinaiticus,  online here.

VERSE 12B: . . . NOR AUTHENTEIN A MAN . . .
Understanding the word authentein is vital to understanding 1 Timothy 2:12. It is not related to the ordinary word for authority (exousia) which is a fairly common in the New Testament. Authentein is used only once in the New Testament, but a related noun, authentēs, is found in other ancient Greek literature where it is used in reference to violent crimes including murder, suicide and even child sacrifice.[3] “The Greek orator Antiphon used this word in his legal briefs four times to refer to murder and one time to refer to suicide. Dio Cassius, Thucydides, Herodotus, Euripides, and Philo all used the word in this way.” (Braun 1981)  In the Septuagint, the word (in the plural) is used to describe murderous parents (Wisdom 12:6).

But the noun may not be helpful in understanding the verb. The noun authentēs was used in Classical Greek and later in Atticistic Greek, which was used in “posh” literature of the Hellenistic period, and it was used in literary Koine Greek, but the verb, which includes authentein, was used in non-literary Koine Greek. This is a factor we need to keep in mind when trying to interpret authentein. First Timothy was written in common Koine Greek.

Cynthia Long Westfall (2016:292), who has studied authent– words for many years, observes:

“In the Greek corpus, the verb authenteō refers to a range of actions that are not restricted to murder or violence. However, the people who are targets of these actions are harmed, forced against their will (compelled), or at least their self-interest is being overridden, because the actions involve an imposition of the subject’s will, ranging from dishonour to lethal force.”

This is a helpful explanation of meaning of the verb.

Importantly, Paul chose not to use any of the many Greek words which can mean “exercise” authority” or “govern.”[4] He chose to use authentein. What Paul meant by this word is difficult, if not impossible, for us to fully grasp. For this reason, caution must be taken when interpreting and applying 1 Timothy 2:12. Yet most churches interpret and apply 1 Timothy 2:12 as though its meaning, and Paul’s intention, are perfectly plain.

More on authentein here.

Another important consideration in interpreting and understanding 1 Timothy 2:12 is the conjunction oude which joins didaskein (“to teach”) with authentein. In New Testament Greek, words joined by the correlative conjunction oude may join to make a single point. They may even share and blend their meanings to some extent.[5] So Paul may well have been prohibiting a kind of teaching that was unacceptable in some way.

Andreas Köstenberger (2000), who staunchly believes that 1 Timothy 2:12 is a universal and timeless prohibition of any woman authoritatively teaching Christian doctrine to any man, concedes that a possible translation of this phrase might be: “I do not permit a woman to teach [error] or to domineer over a man.” (Köstenberger’s use of square brackets.) While Köstenberger rejects this translation himself, it actually fits the context of 1 Timothy, with its concern of false doctrine, very well.

In his book Man and Woman, One in Christ, Philip Payne has argued strongly that 1 Timothy 2:12 contains a hendiadys and that didaskein (“to teach”) is connected in meaning with authentein. Andrew Perriman (1993:141 fn28), however, believes that didaskein should be taken as absolute (and therefore not connected to the word “man”) and that “oude authentein andros [is] itself something of a parenthesis: [though] authentein would still presuppose didaskein.

VERSE 12C: . . . SHE MUST BE SILENT (NIV 1984).
The Greek word hēsuchia which is translated in the NIV (1984) as “silent” really means “calmness” or “quietness”, with the implication of “keeping one’s seat.” This same word is more correctly translated as “quiet” a few verses earlier in 1 Timothy 2:2 and 2:11. Paul wants the woman (or women) to learn quietly.

As well as strengthening the meaning of hēsuchia by translating it as “silent”, the NIV 1984 adds the unwarranted qualifier of “must”, as in “she must be silent”  There is no “must” in this verse, there is no command in the Greek. Why did the translators overemphasise this phrase? Is this an example of bias when translating passages about women? (The NIV 2011 retains “must” but replaces “silent” with “quiet”.)

I suggest that Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 were a correlation of his censure of a badly behaved and ill-informed woman (or perhaps, women) in the Ephesian church who was teaching, or spreading, a heresy with some similarities to Christian gnosticism, perhaps even in a sexual manner much like Jezebel of Thyatira who was “teaching and seducing”  (Rev. 2:20KJV).[6]

If you have read all four parts of this article, please don’t stop now. Part five helps it all to make much more sense.

ENDNOTES
[1] New Testament verses which speak about a singular man and a singular woman usually refer to a husband and wife. In the Greek, the same word is used for an adult male and for a husband. Similarly the same word is used for an adult woman and for a wife. 1 Timothy 2:12 may be referring to an activity that involves one man and one woman, a couple.

[2] For example, the use of epitrepō is used in Matthew 19:8 and Mark 10:4-5 indicates that Moses’s permission for divorce was a concession with limitations. All the occurrences of epitrepō in the New Testament are listed and briefly discussed here.

[3] In his book, Insight into Two Biblical Passages, Leland Wilshire concludes that authentein in 1 Timothy 2:12 means “to instigate violence.” (2010:37, 38) Considering that the authent– words did mean “murder” and “suicide”, if this kind of violence was the issue in the Ephesian church, I imagine Paul would have used much stronger language than he does in 1 Timothy 2:12 and surrounding verses. Wilshire (2010:30) does mention the possibility of “outspoken women” in the Ephesian church, but being outspoken hardly qualifies as violence, even if hyperbole is used in 1 Timothy 2:12, as Wilshire suggests.

[4] Linda Belleville (2004:211) notes, “Within the semantic domain of ‘exercise authority,’ the biblical lexicographers, J.P Louw and Eugene Nida [in their Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains  #37.35-47; #37.48-95] have twelve entries and forty-seven entries of ‘rule,’ ‘govern.’ [Authentein is absent from both of these domains.] Yet Paul chose none of these. Why not? The obvious reason is that authentein carried a nuance (other than ‘rule’ or ‘have authority’) that was particularly suited to the Ephesian situation.”

[5] More on 1 Timothy 2:12 and oude here The Early Christians at Ephesus from Paul to Ignatius, by Paul Trebilco (2004:513) [More info on this in the comments section below.]

[6] The teaching of heresy may have involved sexual practises. I remember coming across this suggestion years ago and reacting with disbelief. I completely dismissed this idea. But the more I read about the problems in Early Church and incipient Christian gnosticism, the more I see a possibility that a woman in the church at Ephesus was teaching, or spreading, the heresy in a sexual way. Or conversely, that a woman (or women) was withholding sex from her husband. Celibacy, even in marriage, was considered a virtue by many early Christians (cf. 1 Tim. 2:15). [More on celibacy in the early church here.]

PART 4: 1 TIMOTHY 2:11-12—PHRASE BY PHRASE
So now we come to the passage that has been used by most of the church for most of its history to prohibit women from any ministry that involves teaching and leading men.

Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or domineer a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was created first and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. But she will be saved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity and self- restraint.  1 Timothy 2:11-15  

VERSE 11: A WOMAN SHOULD LEARN IN QUIETNESS AND FULL SUBMISSION.
Verse 11 is the only verse in this passage that contains a command:  “A woman should learn.” This verse is wonderful and revolutionary, considering many women at that time were not well educated and were not encouraged to learn. Note however, Paul is not saying here that women must learn. Woman is singular and not plural in verse 11. It could be that Paul is writing about a woman, that is, one particular woman who was not quiet and who was misbehaving in the Ephesian church.

Verse 11 includes the word “submission”. This is a common word in the New Testament and it is used in a variety of contexts. The concept of women being submissive has been greatly over-emphasised by many Christians, but submission is simply the opposite of rebellion. In verse 11 Paul is simply instructing a woman to learn in a quiet, respectable manner—the usual conduct of a good student—and not to be loud, offensive or rebellious. [My article on Submission here.]

VERSE 12A: I AM NOT ALLOWING A WOMAN TO TEACH . . .
Note again that the word for “woman” in verse 12 is singular and not plural. This verse is not saying that women cannot teach men, unless “woman” and “man” are understood generically as applying to all the Ephesian women and men.[1] It is important to note, however, that in the verses immediately preceding verses 11-12, Paul gives instructions to men and to women (plural). Why the marked shift from plural to singular?

Another point to consider here is that Paul does not use an imperative in 1 Timothy 2:12. Paul does not use any of the Greek command tenses in this verse. Instead he uses the present active indicative epitrepō with the negative ouk: “I am not allowing . . .”

Andrew Perriman (1993) notes that the use of epitrepō in the New Testament, in every case, is “. . . related to a specific and limited set of circumstances . . .”[2] Perriman goes on to say that, because of Paul’s choice of words, the instruction in verse 12 is more about [local] church governance and practise than theological authority. Moreover, Perriman believes verse 12 to be parenthetical and that Paul’s real concern is not with women teaching, but that the Ephesian women (or woman) should learn in such a way that they will not be deceived by false teachers. Perriman’s suggestion that Paul’s real concern was about women learning is worth considering; however, I am not fully convinced by it. [More on the use of epitrepō in the New Testament here.]

John E. Toews (1983) notes that the use of epitrepō in the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament), is likewise usually related to a “specific and limited situation rather than a universal one” (Gen. 39:6 LXX; Est. 9:14 LXX; Job 32:14 LXX; see also Wisdom 19:2; 1 Macc. 15:6; 4 Macc. 4:18). (Epitrepō in 4 Maccabees 5:26, however, is an exception and is not necessarily used in a limited sense.)

It could be that Paul’s instruction in 1 Timothy 2:12 was related to a specific, limited, local situation. The instruction may even have been limited to a particular woman in the Ephesian church.

1 Timothy 2:12 in Context: 1 Timothy 2:11-12 Phrase by Phrase (authentein)

Screen shot of the word AUTHENTEIN in 1 Timothy 2:12 as it appears in Codex Sinaiticus,  online here.

VERSE 12B: . . . NOR AUTHENTEIN A MAN . . .
Understanding the word authentein is vital to understanding 1 Timothy 2:12. It is not related to the ordinary word for authority (exousia) which is a fairly common in the New Testament. Authentein is used only once in the New Testament, but a related noun, authentēs, is found in other ancient Greek literature where it is used in reference to violent crimes including murder, suicide and even child sacrifice.[3] “The Greek orator Antiphon used this word in his legal briefs four times to refer to murder and one time to refer to suicide. Dio Cassius, Thucydides, Herodotus, Euripides, and Philo all used the word in this way.” (Braun 1981)  In the Septuagint, the word (in the plural) is used to describe murderous parents (Wisdom 12:6).

But the noun may not be helpful in understanding the verb. The noun authentēs was used in Classical Greek and later in Atticistic Greek, which was used in “posh” literature of the Hellenistic period, and it was used in literary Koine Greek, but the verb, which includes authentein, was used in non-literary Koine Greek. This is a factor we need to keep in mind when trying to interpret authentein. First Timothy was written in common Koine Greek.

Cynthia Long Westfall (2016:292), who has studied authent– words for many years, observes:

“In the Greek corpus, the verb authenteō refers to a range of actions that are not restricted to murder or violence. However, the people who are targets of these actions are harmed, forced against their will (compelled), or at least their self-interest is being overridden, because the actions involve an imposition of the subject’s will, ranging from dishonour to lethal force.”

This is a helpful explanation of meaning of the verb.

Importantly, Paul chose not to use any of the many Greek words which can mean “exercise” authority” or “govern.”[4] He chose to use authentein. What Paul meant by this word is difficult, if not impossible, for us to fully grasp. For this reason, caution must be taken when interpreting and applying 1 Timothy 2:12. Yet most churches interpret and apply 1 Timothy 2:12 as though its meaning, and Paul’s intention, are perfectly plain.

More on authentein here.

Another important consideration in interpreting and understanding 1 Timothy 2:12 is the conjunction oude which joins didaskein (“to teach”) with authentein. In New Testament Greek, words joined by the correlative conjunction oude may join to make a single point. They may even share and blend their meanings to some extent.[5] So Paul may well have been prohibiting a kind of teaching that was unacceptable in some way.

Andreas Köstenberger (2000), who staunchly believes that 1 Timothy 2:12 is a universal and timeless prohibition of any woman authoritatively teaching Christian doctrine to any man, concedes that a possible translation of this phrase might be: “I do not permit a woman to teach [error] or to domineer over a man.” (Köstenberger’s use of square brackets.) While Köstenberger rejects this translation himself, it actually fits the context of 1 Timothy, with its concern of false doctrine, very well.

In his book Man and Woman, One in Christ, Philip Payne has argued strongly that 1 Timothy 2:12 contains a hendiadys and that didaskein (“to teach”) is connected in meaning with authentein. Andrew Perriman (1993:141 fn28), however, believes that didaskein should be taken as absolute (and therefore not connected to the word “man”) and that “oude authentein andros [is] itself something of a parenthesis: [though] authentein would still presuppose didaskein.

VERSE 12C: . . . SHE MUST BE SILENT (NIV 1984).
The Greek word hēsuchia which is translated in the NIV (1984) as “silent” really means “calmness” or “quietness”, with the implication of “keeping one’s seat.” This same word is more correctly translated as “quiet” a few verses earlier in 1 Timothy 2:2 and 2:11. Paul wants the woman (or women) to learn quietly.

As well as strengthening the meaning of hēsuchia by translating it as “silent”, the NIV 1984 adds the unwarranted qualifier of “must”, as in “she must be silent”  There is no “must” in this verse, there is no command in the Greek. Why did the translators overemphasise this phrase? Is this an example of bias when translating passages about women? (The NIV 2011 retains “must” but replaces “silent” with “quiet”.)

I suggest that Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 were a correlation of his censure of a badly behaved and ill-informed woman (or perhaps, women) in the Ephesian church who was teaching, or spreading, a heresy with some similarities to Christian gnosticism, perhaps even in a sexual manner much like Jezebel of Thyatira who was “teaching and seducing”  (Rev. 2:20KJV).[6]

If you have read all four parts of this article, please don’t stop now. Part five helps it all to make much more sense.

ENDNOTES
[1] New Testament verses which speak about a singular man and a singular woman usually refer to a husband and wife. In the Greek, the same word is used for an adult male and for a husband. Similarly the same word is used for an adult woman and for a wife. 1 Timothy 2:12 may be referring to an activity that involves one man and one woman, a couple.

[2] For example, the use of epitrepō is used in Matthew 19:8 and Mark 10:4-5 indicates that Moses’s permission for divorce was a concession with limitations. All the occurrences of epitrepō in the New Testament are listed and briefly discussed here.

[3] In his book, Insight into Two Biblical Passages, Leland Wilshire concludes that authentein in 1 Timothy 2:12 means “to instigate violence.” (2010:37, 38) Considering that the authent– words did mean “murder” and “suicide”, if this kind of violence was the issue in the Ephesian church, I imagine Paul would have used much stronger language than he does in 1 Timothy 2:12 and surrounding verses. Wilshire (2010:30) does mention the possibility of “outspoken women” in the Ephesian church, but being outspoken hardly qualifies as violence, even if hyperbole is used in 1 Timothy 2:12, as Wilshire suggests.

[4] Linda Belleville (2004:211) notes, “Within the semantic domain of ‘exercise authority,’ the biblical lexicographers, J.P Louw and Eugene Nida [in their Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains  #37.35-47; #37.48-95] have twelve entries and forty-seven entries of ‘rule,’ ‘govern.’ [Authentein is absent from both of these domains.] Yet Paul chose none of these. Why not? The obvious reason is that authentein carried a nuance (other than ‘rule’ or ‘have authority’) that was particularly suited to the Ephesian situation.”

[5] More on 1 Timothy 2:12 and oude here The Early Christians at Ephesus from Paul to Ignatius, by Paul Trebilco (2004:513) [More info on this in the comments section below.]

[6] The teaching of heresy may have involved sexual practises. I remember coming across this suggestion years ago and reacting with disbelief. I completely dismissed this idea. But the more I read about the problems in Early Church and incipient Christian gnosticism, the more I see a possibility that a woman in the church at Ephesus was teaching, or spreading, the heresy in a sexual way. Or conversely, that a woman (or women) was withholding sex from her husband. Celibacy, even in marriage, was considered a virtue by many early Christians (cf. 1 Tim. 2:15). [More on celibacy in the early church here.]
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