Women in church and the Genesis 'myth'


Given that most here believe the books of the canonical bible to have been ‘inspired’ (whatever that means) by God. What are peoples views on such passages as 1 Timothy ch.2 v.11-14 where Paul uses a very literal interpretation of Genesis to back his case for women not teaching. In other words how do those of you who believe God directed evolution (and hence there never was a moment where ‘the woman transgressed’) treat Paul’s argument? Would you regard it as one of those things not ‘from the Lord’ but just something Paul ‘felt’ was right given his understanding?


This is a contentious verse for other reasons: it doesn’t fit very well (if at all) into Paul’s sin-of-Adam soteriology elsewhere. And the one other place in the Pauline corpus where this sort of thing shows up (toward the end of 1 Cor), fits so poorly into its context that the textual transmission record actually has some variants where the verse is moved around.

(On the other hand, the 1 Tim verses are pretty well settled in the textual transmission history. So if there was an addition here, it would have to be seriously early before copies were circulating around, and/or considered by the copyists to have similar levels of authority. My own guess is that it’s a comment by Timothy on how he runs things, added at the time of first public circulation. But that’s a speculative guess.)

That being said, I don’t have any principle problem with affirming both directed evolution and a scenario where the first sentient couple of the species sins (with the woman going first). Whether the external data comports or not is a whole other set of questions.


It looks like one of my favorite authors has taken down his article which included a most excellent exegesis on this passage, but I will do my best to illuminate instead.

Apparently Paul was writing about a current crisis in the church involving a Gnostic teaching that, well, is probably best described here:

“Other Gnostics regarded the serpent in the Garden of Eden as a heroic figure because it wanted to help humanity free itself of the chains of Yaldabaoth: After the Demiurge comes to rule over the physical world, Sophia sends a message by way of the Serpent. She gives gnosis to the humans this way, which causes the wrath of the Demiurge, who believes himself to be the sole creator of the universe and the exclusive ruler of this world. The ‘original sin’ thus is in a gnostic context the ‘original enlightenment’, and not an act of sin at all. Humans also learn that Seth, the third son of Adam, was introduced to the gnostic teachings by both his father and his mother, and that this knowledge has been preserved throughout creation.”


So, apparently women are more exalted because of their relationship to, or representation of, Sophia. I’m not entirely educated on the subject but this is apparently the basic message that was gaining ground amongst some of the women believers in the church at Ephesus then. In chapter one we see something about false doctrines, myths and endless genealogies. Chapter three enlightens us to believe that the women were adorning themselves immodestly to glorify their appearance (perhaps to resemble Sophia?) In chapter three verse eleven we see that some of the women have supposedly been guilty of malicious talking. Then in chapter four we see regulations that sound like something we see from Gnostic asceticism, such as abstaining from marriage and certain foods. Right after that we see a reference to ‘godless myths and old wives’ tales’. It is clear almost beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is referring to these Gnostic myths, especially as when he says he does not permit women to teach or have authority over a man. Certainly his objection that the woman was the first to sin was an attempt to make a blow at the Gnostic myth in which women were supposedly more enlightened because of the same act. This teaching infected the church, and some of the younger women became troublesome and began stirring things up (see chapter 5:13). (For further references look at ch. 6:3-5 & 20-21.)

Furthermore, apparently the force of the text implies the meaning ‘I do not now permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man.’ It was a temporary binding because of the present circumstances. It would be ludicrous to think that Paul felt that women shouldn’t teach or have authority in general, with all the women in ministry that he vocally approved of!

I hope this helps solve some of the confusion on this matter.



I’m pretty sure I’ve read Ben Worthington III giving an explanation of this sort, too. (Which I admired at the time, although I can’t find the link anymore.)

I think the main weak link in this explanation is that the notion of a temporary and/or localized ban, as the meaning of verse 12, doesn’t match up well with the contextual explanation for the ban in verse 13. The explanation given for the ban is not that people teaching the Fall (and Satan) to be a good thing are infesting the congregation, but that such-n-such things happened in Genesis. It isn’t as though someone can say, well, once Eve stops sinning first before Adam, then the problem in the congregation will be over and the ban can be lifted. It’s presented as a completed historical event with running consequences which still apply today.

(This observation doesn’t undercut the other suggestive bits of data in the epistle testifying to Paul combatting a competitive belief system in the congregation, along the lines of a Gnostic Sophia freedom-from-being-trapped-in-evil-Nature-by-Demiurge-thanks-to-Satan thing. But the context makes it hard to read verse 12 to be referring to a temporary and/or local restriction that might be lifted later.)

My Timothy-gloss theory involves the gloss starting at either verse 11 or perhaps verse 12.

(Please note that discussion on what’s really going on in 1 Tim doesn’t have much in itself to do with answering Jeff’s actual question, which to recap was: “How do those of you who believe God directed evolution (and hence there never was a moment where ‘the woman transgressed’) treat Paul’s argument?”)


This is why I like these boards - It is always a surprise and delight to see the views of others as they take something and run with it.

I appreciate the time you’ve both taken to consider this. I have not, in fact, ever come across this notion of a temporary ban on women teaching in this passage so that was interesting to read.

As Jason knows from other discussions - As a non-believer who is happy with the general outline of human evolution I have great difficulty in seeing where the Genesis account of the fall can possibly fit into ‘real history’ (whatever that is :smiley: ). Jason on the other hand can accommodate Gen in a non-literal way by allowing for God to intervene in proto-human development such that the essentials of the Gen story are fulfilled (God endows humans with a sense of right and wrong which they then abuse - and it’s still the woman who goes first). That for me is retro-fitting the myth with no evidence other than - ‘to make it work that’s what must have happened’.

As I can’t reconcile Genesis with human evolution I have to see Paul’s use of it here to justify his ban on women teaching as flawed (I’m not saying I’m right - just saying that is my position). I have similar problems when the flood is used in the NT. No global flood geology I have ever read, as far as I’m concerned, stands up against the geology of scientific endeavour; so when the flood as generally accepted is used to back up some other claim (in the NT) I have a hard time taking that claim seriously because the NT writers aren’t treating those stories (Adam and Eve or the flood) as allegorical they are treating them as plain truth and historical events.

So even though threads in this place wander around a topic that is good from my perspective as it tends to introduce approaches I have never even considered. Also it’s good to see Stellar’s replies in much older threads pushing them back up to our attention.


Oh, I see where I deviated from the topic at hand. haha.

Jason started talking about the historical validity of it being something of Paul’s and then I just latched onto that discussion. I was also trying, I guess, to kind of remove the percieved difficulty of undoing the ‘commandment’ if you will for women to be silent in the church. But now that I see that your real bone of contention was the referring to old testament stories as historically accurate, I concede.

However, I did want to add a little response to what you said, Jason. I know this might remain a disagreement since it takes some interpretation, but where Paul says, ‘for Adam was formed first, then Eve’ I think he’s saying it’s generally disgraceful for the women to try to have the preeminence over the men (which they were evidently trying to do) since if everybody is not going to be equal, men have the right to have more authority at the very least, by that argument. The reference to the woman being decieved is an allusion to the fact that in the present situation the women are the ones being decieved. It seems to be kind of a strike at the exalted ego of the collective group of women.

Couple that reasoning with the fact that women were considered equal (Galatians 3:28) in the Christian communities, and it is more than likely that the spirit of Jesus’ respect for them was continued as everything else about his ministry was, the women had no real reason to exalt themselves besides false sense of pride. In fact, you could say the equality given them gave a unique platform for it.