Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety. (1 Timothy 2:11-15)
Rebels against God deny their responsibilities as defined by their Creator. They may seek to exercise authority not allowed them or they may abandon their legitimate duties. Our sin natures cause us to lose our bearings as to our rightful duties before both God and man. Redeemed man thus recognizes that he must look to.
God’s Revelation for an authoritative description of proper roles.
Paul instructed Timothy here in three small matters regarding women in public worship—they were not to teach, but were to be silent in subjection, and not to usurp authority over men. These requirements are not in any way unusual or out of place. Women were to learn from public worship led by men while having a spirit of acknowledged subjection to that authority. Specifically, women were not to be teachers. Here Paul refers to the office of teaching in the church, not to their role as mothers where they were to teach in the home (Prov. 1:8; 31:1ff). They were to ask their questions at home. Lest there be any question of women’s role, Paul specifically stated that they were not to usurp authority over the man. The woman is not to actively desire or work towards the leadership role; and, if abdicated, she must desire its restoration rather than eagerly assume its mantle.
What Paul requires is not as difficult for many women to accept as the reasons why. Many assume that Eve and, ultimately, women in general are required to bear the lion’s share of the guilt for the first sin. This is not the case, however. Adam and Eve were both just as guilty and culpable. Their curses, however, took different forms because they had different responsibilities even before their sin.
The first reason given by Paul for the limitations on the woman’s roles was the created order. By created order we are not talking about the numerical order of creation, for animals were created before Adam. When Paul says Adam was created first he refers to the position and authority given him. Adam worked to fulfill his dominion mandate (Gen. 1:19-20) before Eve was created (1:21-24) to be his "help meet." The term "help meet" refers to a mirror image. Eve was created to perfectly reflect Adam’s needs. These needs were not merely personal but also refer to his calling. Eve was made from Adam and for him (1 Cor. 11:8-9). Together, they were truly a perfect pair. There was no hostility or jealousy as to which role each ought to fulfill. It is worth noting that in his humiliation Christ emphasized his role of obedience to the heavenly Father. All of creation is subject to God’s order and appointment, though Adam and Eve’s original order was without sin and hence Adam’s authority would have been of an unimaginably kind and benign character.
Of course, Adam sinned also. But his curse (Gen. 1:17-19) centered on the new frustration he would find in his work of tending the earth. Nowhere is the basic dominion mandate for Adam or Eve’s role as help meet negated; they were only frustrated by the curse around and the sin within them. Sinful authority is always onerous to some extent. Even the best kings of the Hebrews showed this. But human authority in many spheres is necessary and, in fact, mandated by Scripture. The basic created order was not forfeited at the Fall, only corrupted.
In addition to the created order, Paul gives a second reason why the woman must not usurp authority in the church. "Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression," Paul said. Eve was the first to grasp at sin. That sin, remember, was more than mere disobedience, evil as that is. Eve desired to "be as gods, knowing [determining] good and evil" (Gen. 3:5). It was only after this thought was placed in her head that Eve saw the desirability of the fruit and decided to eat it (3:6).
Eve’s assumption of authority over both her husband and God preceded her eating the fruit and then sharing it with Adam. This assumption of authority with the goal of being equal to God and its evil consequence made it fitting that her curse would be to depend on the authority of her husband. Now, however, the sinful Adam was no perfect husband. Sin made her subjection a sometimes onerous task. Her assumption of authority which turned her husband away from God made it fitting she be placed under that man’s now sinful authority.
Some focus on the sin of men in disdain of the authority of men. This, however, is to repeat the sin of Eve and to elevate oneself to the position of judging both God’s created order and his justice in cursing Eve.
The fact that Eve was placed under the rule of her husband (Gen. 3:16) in no way lessens Adam’s sin. Eve may have been the first to believe Satan’s lie but Adam chose willingly to listen to his wife rather than obey God (3:17). Moreover, God referred to Adam as believing the lie that he would "become as one of us, to know good and evil" (3:22). All Christian theology is based on the sin and guilt of both parents of mankind. Paul’s comments specifically regarded women and subjection, so they only served to illustrate that Eve’s part in the first sin was very real.
But God’s grace does not seek to keep us humbled. His grace can save us no matter what our sin or guilt may have been. God conquers and erases guilt; he does not use it as a weapon against his own—male or female.
The hope of women is to be saved by God’s grace. Part of the curse on Eve was the pain of childbirth. But Paul notes that even in the punishment itself is her means of blessing. Childbearing does not refer to any nobility in pregnancy but to the incarnation of Christ and his salvation. Was Mary angry at God because she would suffer the pains of childbirth in Bethlehem or did she praise God that he used her as an instrument in his salvation?
Paul says they will be saved "if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety." They refers to the husband and wife who submit to God by faith in Jesus Christ in charity (love) and holiness (separation to God) with sobriety (self-restraint). To challenge God’s order or his justice in cursing Eve is to show a lack of faith and the desire to know (determine) good and evil on our own. This is to repeat the original sin. Rather than showing we know better than God, refusing to subject ourselves to godly authority only demonstrates a return to the original sin and God’s justice in condemning it and cursing our first parents and their offspring.
- Mark R. Rushdoony
Mark R. Rushdoony graduated from Los Angeles Baptist College (now The Master’s College) with a B.A. in history in 1975 and was ordained to the ministry in 1995.
He taught junior and senior high classes in history, Bible, civics and economics at a Christian school in Virginia for three years before joining the staff of Chalcedon in 1978. He was the Director of Chalcedon Christian School for 14 years while teaching full time. He also helped tutor all of his children through high school.
In 1998, he became the President of Chalcedon and Ross House Books, and, more recently another publishing arm, Storehouse Press. Chalcedon and its subsidiaries publish many titles plus CDs, mp3s, and an extensive online archive at www.chalcedon.edu.
He has written scores of articles for Chalcedon’s publications, both the Chalcedon Report and Faith for all of Life. He was a contributing author to The Great Christian Revolution (1991). He has spoken at numerous conferences and churches in the U.S. and abroad.
Mark Rushdoony lives in Vallecito, California, his home of 43 years with his wife of 45 years and his youngest son. He has three married children and nine grandchildren.