Is “a woman” representative of “all women”?

Is “a woman” representative of “all women”?

This post is an answer to Matt Slicks article called “1 Timothy 2:9-15 “a woman” is representative of all women as “a man”represents all men”.

Matt has been trying to answer my arguments on 1 Timothy 2:111-15 and his article is an attempt at trying to prove that the Greek”gune” or “woman/wife” represents all women.

Matt says:

“As we have seen in the chart in the article The use of the phrase “a woman” in the entire New Testament, Paul uses the phrase “a woman” to refer to only a particular woman 11% of the time while he refers to women and wives in general 77% of the time.”

The first thing that we can note is that Matt didn’t do a chart using the Greek word “gune” but the English word “woman”. This allows Matt to miss some instances of “gune” which is what Paul uses in 1Timothy 2:12. This is because “gune” does not necessarily mean “a woman”. When “gune” is used, it can mean generic woman, but it is not required that it means all women. There is no indefinite article in Greek such as in English where we have indefinite articles a and an. When “gune” is used in the Greek it is possible that “a woman” is meant, but it is also just as easily possible that “the woman” is meant or even “a group” that is qualitatively female, that is “women”.  In Greek, the use of the definite article means the noun is definite, but even if the definite article is not used, it doesn’t mean that it must be indefinite.  It just means that there are 3 possibilities to the meaning , including the possibility that it is meant as a definite.  This is the case of the anarthrous nouns.  See Wallace “Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics” on anarthrous nouns (anarthrous means without an article).

While Matt makes a big deal about percentages, this doesn’t mean much.  Percentages can be interesting, however percentages cannot determine the meaning of a word in a passage.  It is the context of the passage that will determine the meaning not percentages.

If Paul was giving a general prohibition to Timothy that would affect all Christian women for all time, his grammar in verse 15 does not match a general prohibition. Paul on the other hand has used the term “a man” Greek “anthropos” where the context clearly shows that Paul is not talking about a generic man. For example in 2 Corinthians 12:1-21, no matter how high the percentage is that Paul uses “anthropos” to mean generic man, Paul is not talking about men in general in this passage. Paul also did not identify a man who was living with his father’s wife but called him “someone”. This obviously was not about generic man either. The key to understanding Paul is to look at the context, not how many times Paul used “aner” or “anthropos” to mean a generic man rather than a particular man.

Matt says:

“we conclude that the mentioning of Adam and Eve and the created order is dealing with men and women in general, not with a particular woman or just wives.”

If Paul’s mention of Adam and Eve along with created order and deception was about men and women in general, then should we be concluding that all men are not deceived and all women are deceived like Eve? There is more to see in the context of this passage that brings out the importance of Paul’s mention of creation, deception and Adam and Eve.  Paul’s meaning has to be about something other than all generic man and woman.

What Matt misses is that the created order is about deception, not authority. Paul does not say that the man is to have authority over women, but that Adam was not deceived, while Eve was deceived. Paul connects the deception to the prohibition in verse 12 but he also connects it to the solution in verse 15. Paul says neither that Adam is given authority over humanity nor that he is given authority over Eve. We would have to ignore the context in order to make Adam’s authority the subject. Paul connected Adam to the state of “no deception” but Paul did not connect Adam with authority. There is not even one word in this passage that says that Adam had authority or that the man is to have authority over the woman.

Additionally, what does authority have to do with verse 15? How would man’s authority (which is never mentioned in the passage) fit in with the salvation of the single “she” mentioned in verse 15? Even if one could make a single “she” and a plural “they” mean the same thing (i.e. all women), how would man’s authority fit in with this verse? It doesn’t fit. What does fit into the context is the subject of deception. Because of deception a prohibition is given. In spite of her deception “she” will be saved (in the future)… if… Does Paul’s concern about her salvation fit into the context of deception? Or does a concern about salvation fit with all women? Women’s salvation is never questioned in scripture so all women do not fit well with verse 15.

Some take the “salvation” spoken of in verse 15 as been “saved” from dying in child birth but this would break the connection between verses 11-15 and it is not a promise that has been made and kept by God for all godly women. Where is the connection between child birth and the stopping of “a woman” from teaching “a man”? Why would Paul all of a sudden talk about women giving birth to children when he is connecting each verse together with “but” (verse 12) “for” (verse 13) “and” (verse 14) and “but” (verse 15). The flow from verses 11 – 15 is connected from one verse to the next and if we break the connection with verse 15 we have lost the end result that Paul gives because of the command to learn (verse 11) and the prohibition (verse 12).  If she learns the truth and she stops teaching the error, she will be saved out of her deception if she stays in that truth, stays in the truth faith and in her love for God.  Her self-control is needed to stay away from error and deception.  This is how a deceived person will be saved.

Matt concludes with this statement:

“Since Paul mentions the order of creation regarding Adam and Eve in 1 Tim. 2:13 after he mentions authority and again that mentions authority with the created order in 1 Cor. 11:8-10, we can see that there is a pattern Paul teaches that is applied generically in the church.”

There are several very glaring errors in this concluding statement of Matt’s. The first error is that Matt is connecting “authority” with the order of creation when Paul is connecting “deceived” and “not deceived” with the order of creation. The word “authenteo” (verse 12) is a unique word in the scriptures and it is a hotly disputed word never used for spiritual authority elsewhere in scripture. Paul never gives men permission to “authenteo” anyone and so to connect this word with permission for men to “authenteo” women or anyone for that matter, is reading into the passage.

Secondly Matt connects the order of creation with “authority” mentioned in 1 Corinthians 11:10. This is another error of Matt’s since 1 Cor. 11:10 does not have men in authority over women. The Greek word used in verse 10 is exousia and it is the authority that the person has themselves not an authority that is over them. It is never used in scripture to mean that the person is under authority. The words “a symbol of” in verse 10 are not in the original manuscripts but have been added by the translators. The inspired word is that the woman is to have authority over her own head. She is to have authority to make a decision because of the angels. Paul’s use of “because of the angels” is clear when we go back to his reference of the angels earlier in his letter to the Corinthians.

1Co 6:2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts?
1Co 6:3 Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?

Since the saints will judge the world and they will also judge angels, the woman is to have power to make her own decision concerning what she does or doesn’t wear on her head because in the next life she will also have the responsibility to judge the world and the angels. There is no reference to a man having authority over the woman in this verse at all.

But what about the reference to creation in 1 Cor. 11:12? Is this about the man having authority over the woman as Matt has said? When we test all things, we can see that this is not true.

1Co 11:11 However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.

1Co 11:12 For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God.

Paul says that neither the man or the woman is independent of each other. Just as the woman originated from the man so now the man has his origin through her. But neither one is preeminent over the other because God is the ultimate origin of all.

These passages say not one word about the man having authority over the woman. In 1 Timothy 2:13, 14 the reference to creation is about deception and in 1 Cor. 11:12 the reference to creation is about the equality of the man and the woman in that both are dependent on each other and the preeminent one is God. There is absolutely nothing that says that the man has authority over the woman in these passages.

While Matt has been trying to provide a reasoning in 1 Timothy 2 for Paul to be stopping the biblical teaching of all women to all men, he has not given a reasonable explanation for verse 15 which has specific grammar that gives the boundary or “fence” as to how far we can apply verse 12. Without the ability to apply “she” and “they” from verse 15 to something other than the exact same thing (i.e. Matt makes “she” and “they” to mean the same thing), Matt has ignored the boundary markers that force us to go back to find out who the “she” is that Paul is giving the prohibition to. “She” will be saved, Paul says “if”… Paul applies the prohibition to “gune”, and he stops her from teaching because of the verses that follow. It is because of deception, then Paul brings out that her salvation out of that deception is dependent on what “she” and “they” do to make sure she doesn’t fall back into deception. The list of things is the same as what Paul said the deceived teachers fell away from.

1Ti 1:5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
1Ti 1:6 For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion,

This is why Paul said that “they” must continue in these things (verse 15). Those who stray from these things, Paul said were falling into deception.

What we don’t have in the passage is Paul saying that “a man” or “any man” is to have authority over “gune” (a woman, wife or the woman) or over another man. Instead we are to serve one another and never lord it over others in the body of Christ.

10 thoughts on “Is “a woman” representative of “all women”?

  1. I agree with most of your analysis.

    I think it could be improved by using the Greek terms actually in the NT and then translating them as you choose, based on the context.

    Also, gune does not necessarily mean “a woman”.  I think this is conceding too much from the start and also making assumptions.  It is possible, but not required.  As there is no indefinite article in Greek (in English, the indefinite articles are a and an) it is POSSIBLE that “a woman” is meant, but it is also POSSIBLE that “the woman” is meant or even “a group that has the quality of being like a woman” (that is, women). 

    That is, the use of the definite article means the noun is definite, but the non-use of the definite article just means there are 3 possibilities, including possibly being definite.  See Wallace “Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics” on anarthrous nouns (anarthrous means without an article).

  2. Don,

    Good points and I will submit to your suggestions and rewrite the article to include these.

  3. Your update is fine, you could show how Matt misses the gune in 1 Cor 7:10 yet verse 11 is a specific unnamed woman, as the verb is aorist which is a instant in the (historical) past.  This shows his “a woman” analysis as deficient.

    I hope you have Wallace’s book and verify my summary.  It is considered a standard Greek reference work.

  4. If ‘a woman’ is representative of ‘all women’ then the NT scriptures are contradictory. We have too many examples of women teaching in front of men in the NT.

    What happened?

    We know scripture does not contradict itself. So, there must be a problem of proof texting an interpretation.

  5. Can Matt pick and choose when ‘a woman’ is used to mean singular particular as in v.14, it is said that ‘a woman’ refers to ‘Eve’, but then in v.11 & 12, Matt will say that Paul’s usage of the singular is generic for all women.

    Was tradition consistent? Did it interpret ‘a woman’ in v.11, 12 AND 14 to mean generic for all women and this is why all women were thought to be deceived, or easily deceived? Why do some pick and choose today in the passage when the grammaticaly singular is generic and also singular, particular?

  6. Do we need to be consistent? Was paul’s usage consistent? Why would it have not been?

  7. Obviously because comps claim that the usage of ‘woman’ in v.14, is used to refer to a singular particular woman being Eve therefore it can be said that it’s usage elsewhere in the SAME passage was also for a singular particular woman (an unnamed woman at Ephesus who was teaching false things to her husband). But the comps will pick and choose it’s usage. Does it even make sense that the grammatical singular could have a two sided usage in the passage? How absurd.

    I’ve been thinking on thispassage lately, obviously, so am giving my two cent thoughts.   🙂

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