This post will be an expansion on the reasons why I believe that 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is about one specific woman and why a general reference to women does not line up with the grammar within the surrounding context. I will also consider the challenge to my view from the new verbal aspect theory. To start I will summarize my reasons from the text for believing that Paul had a specific woman in mind. After that, I will expand on each point trying hard to bring it down to a general level of understanding.
1. There is a grammar change along with a topic change starting with 1 Timothy 2 verses 11 and 12 that points to a single woman rather than a group.
2. There is an anaphoric reference in verse 12 (the anarthrous noun “woman”) that has as its referent the definite noun (the woman) in verse 14 as an antecedent. This clarifies the non-specific noun (woman) in verse 12 as a specific woman rather than generic woman.
3. The woman in verse 14 is in the perfect tense as she is existing in a present state and therefore the woman cannot be made to fit a dead person such as Eve. The challenge of the new verbal aspect theory will also be dealt with under this point.
4. The she in verse 15 is in the future tense and cannot be made to fit a dead person such as Eve who cannot do anything in the future concerning her salvation.
5. Paul creates an outline or pattern of Eve in verse 13 that fits the situation of a one specific deceived woman referred to in 1 Timothy 2:14 as the woman.
6. Timothy receives an assurance about a particular “she” whose salvation would still be in the future at the time of Paul’s writing.
7. Paul uses both the singular and plural in verse 15 and proper grammar disallows referencing both “she” and “they” in the same sentence as being the same thing. The grammar supports a single woman along with at least one other person in order to make a plural “they”.
8. Eve cannot be a pattern for all women since not all women are deceived. Eve can be a pattern for another deceived woman.
Expansion on the first four points (the expansion on the next four points will come with the next post in this series)
1. There is an unusual grammar change in 1 Timothy 2:11, 12 that is unnecessary and very irregular if Paul was writing about women in general. However the grammar change is a natural change if Paul is switching gears and changing subjects.
A logical continuation of the general topic of women should have kept Paul using the term “women” in verses 11 and 12. This would have been straightforward and understandable if Paul was not changing the subject and if he was referring to the same group. Paul could have easily said “I am not allowing women to teach or authentein men.” This is indeed what complementarians are saying that Paul meant, but if that is what Paul meant to write, he did not write what was natural in that continued flow of discussion. Rather than continuing with the plural form, Paul abruptly switches to the singular woman in verses 11 and 12. It is an abrupt change in grammar and we need to ask why? Was the Holy Spirit trying to confuse us through this difficult passage penned by Paul? Or is this one of the passages that we need to pay especially close attention to each point of grammar in order to rightfully divide the Word of Truth? I would like to suggest that we have speculated far too long on what Paul meant and by speculating we have dismissed the grammar as if it has no real relevance. Dismissing the grammar has caused us to veer off course and has caused much confusion in the church.
Paying close attention to the grammar allows 1 Timothy 2:11-15 to be one continuous text that is presented in a logical and compelling order. It is also in contrast with the previous verses. For example in 1 Timothy 2:9, 10 Paul is talking about godly women who have good works. These godly women are to be given instruction by Timothy on how to model godliness by dressing modestly without placing undue emphasis on their attire. Then comes the shift. The prohibition in verse 12 shows that these verses are not talking about godly women nor about good works but about a sinner and about bad works. There is a shift in the grammar (from plural to singular) and from good and godly things to bad and ungodly things which are markedly similar to Paul’s own ignorance, unbelief and violent aggression (1 Timothy 1:13) that he displayed before he found God’s mercy. Paul himself said that he was set up as a pattern for those who were going to believe on Jesus.
1 Timothy 1:16 (NKJV) However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.
Paul was set up as a pattern as one who was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor (1 Timothy 1:13) yet Paul found mercy. The Greek noun that is translated a violent aggressor means:
an act which invades the sphere of another to his hurt, a “trespass,” a “transgression” of the true norm in violation of divine and human right. Arrogance of disposition is often implied
Vol. 8: Theological dictionary of the New Testament. (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.)
A similar kind of word is used in 1 Timothy 2:12 as the extremely rare Greek word authentein also has a violent root even at times being equated with murder by one’s own hand. Thayer’s Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament defines this unusual word as:
one who with his own hand kills either others or himself.
Zodhiates The complete word study dictionary writes this about authentein:
murderer, absolute master, which is from autos (846), himself, and entea (n.f.) arms, armor. A self–appointed killer with one’s own hand, one acting by his own authority or power.
So while Paul in his pre-Christian state thought he was working for God, his ungodly acts were violent aggression against both God and man. In chapter 2 Paul takes the pattern of his example and lays it as a pattern over the case of a woman who is unwittingly doing evil, but who is also eligible to receive God’s mercy. Paul links her to the deception of Eve and in her deception she is to be stopped from teaching and committing the act of authentein towards a man. A deceived person who is teaching their deception is a bad work and deception veers one onto the path of ungodliness. It is important to note that Paul never ever stops the teaching of true doctrine. Even those who teach the truth yet with an ungodly motive are not stopped from teaching. In Philippians 1:15-18 Paul brings this out very clearly.
Philippians 1:15–18 (NASB95)
15Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will;
16the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel;
17the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.
18What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,
So we can see that starting in 1 Timothy 2:11, 12 there is a grammar change from plural to singular and a topic change from godly women to the bad works of one who is deceived. We can know for sure that the topic has changed because true teaching is never stopped by the Apostle Paul even with those who display an ungodly, bad motive. Paul’s pattern was always to stop false doctrine, but never did he stop the preaching of the truth. To summarize, the transitional words to signal the change in topic are the change from plural to singular and from the topic of godly to the topic of deception. We would expect that Timothy completely understood the topic change because he knew the specific situation in Ephesus. We would certainly not expect Timothy to connect instructions for godly women on their appearance to instructions for one who is under deception. Ignoring the topic and grammar change has caused many to lump godly women into the category of the deceived. We must change this faulty tradition so that the church can go forward in unity and in the strength and the inter-connective nature of each member and each God-given gift.
Note: Those who are disagreeing with me, need to provide reason for the irregular and unusual grammar change if they believe that Paul continues to write about women in general. Also those who believe that Paul was stopping godly teaching need to provide proof that Paul ever stopped the teaching of the truth of the gospel. Please document additional places where such an unusual grammar change happened in the Scriptures where there is no change of subject and please provide proof that Paul ever practiced silencing the truth of the gospel. If you cannot, then please consider that Paul has changed the subject from godly to ungodly and the application from general to a specific case.
2. There is an anaphoric reference in verse 12 that links the anarthrous noun “woman” to the antecedent reference “the woman” in verse 14.
Anarthrous means “used without the article”. An anarthrous noun does not mean that it is indefinite just because it does not have the definite article. It can properly be attached to a repetition of the noun and the repetition does provide the definite article. Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries defines it this way:
Normally when an anaphoric use is in view, the preceding use of the noun will lack the article. It will not be articled. And if you read Greek then you will know that in James 2:14 when it says that a person says they have faith (ean pistin lege) pistin does not have an article, so this is a classic example where you have a noun, then you have the repetition of the noun later with an article, that article is pointing us back to the preceding use of the noun. This is called the anaphoric use of the article.
You can hear the audio clip on this topic here James White on Anaphoric reference.
So we have “woman” in 1 Timothy 2:12 that lacks the article and a repetition of the singular “woman” in verse 14 that has the article. The repetition of the noun with the article will point us back to the preceding use of the noun and identifies a specific woman is in view.
Since Timothy knew the problems in Ephesus that Paul was alluding to, we can know for certain that Timothy was not confused by Paul using the general term “woman” and then adding the specific term that defines a specific woman when Paul links her to the very first deceived woman. Timothy was not confused.
Note: For those who do not agree that Paul used an anaphoric reference in verse 12 attached to the repetition of the noun with the article, then please show me why such a use of the reference cannot fit the reason why Paul changed from the plural “women” in verse 10 to the singular “woman” in verses 11 and 12.
3. The woman in verse 14 is in the perfect tense as she is existing in a present state of affairs and therefore the woman from verse 14 grammatically cannot be made to fit a dead person such as Eve.
The perfect tense in Greek is defined this way:
perfect — The verb tense used by the writer to describe a completed verbal action that occurred in the past but which produced a state of being or a result that exists in the present (in relation to the writer). The emphasis of the perfect is not the past action so much as it is as such but the present “state of affairs” resulting from the past action.
– Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology.
There are those who claim that the new verbal aspect theory allows them to change the perfect tense in 1 Timothy 2:14 to a dramatic or historical perfect. Unfortunately, this cannot be done in this passage.
In my work as a apologist I have seen the same claim about the present tense where some have tried to deny the Deity of the Lord Jesus by claiming that Jesus’ words in John 8:58 “I am” is not to be seen as a present tense but a historical (or dramatic) present.
John 8:58 (NASB95)
58Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”
Jesus was saying that before Abraham came into being, Jesus as the Word of God already existed. He was contrasting the existence initiated by birth with Himself as an absolute existence, the same existence claimed by God in Exodus 3:14.
Exodus 3:14 (NASB95)
14God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”
Instead of taking this as an eternal present, Jehovah’s Witnesses have claimed that it is to be taken as a historical present. Daniel B. Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics on page 526, he writes this about the historical present:
The historical present is used fairly frequently in narrative literature to describe a past event.
a. Reason for Use: Vivid Portrayal
The reason for the use of the historical present is normally to portray an event vividly, as though the reader were in the midst of the scene as it unfolds…The present tense may be used to describe a past event, either for the sake of vividness or to highlight some aspect of the narrative….
The problem for those who deny the Deity of Jesus, is that Jesus’ wording using the present tense is not in a narrative. It does not qualify as a historical present. A narrative passage would be one which is telling a story:
Matthew 1:19–20 (NKJV)
19Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.
20But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus was not telling a story but was giving a testimony to His enduring existence.
But what of those who claim that the perfect tense in 1 Timothy 2:14 can also take the route of being a historical perfect? There are two things that remove 1 Timothy 2:14 as having the possibility of being a historical or dramatic perfect. The first thing is that the perfect tense needs to be aorist not indicative as the perfect tense is in 1 Timothy 2:14. The second important point is that it has to be in a narrative context which 1 Timothy 2 is not.
Here is the definition of the perfect tense according to Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics pg 573
The force of the perfect tense is simply that it describes an event that, completed in the past (we are speaking of the perfect indicative here), has results existing in the present time (i.e., in relation to the time of the speaker.) Or as Zerwick puts it, the perfect tense is used for “indicating not the past action as such but the present ‘state of affairs’ resulting from the past action.
BDF suggest that the perfect tense “combines in itself, so to speak, the present and the aorist in that it denotes the continuance of completed action…”
Here is how Dr. Wallace defines the boundaries around the historical perfect tense on page 578 of his Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics:
C. Aoristic Perfect (a.k.a. Dramatic or Historical Perfect)
The perfect indicative is rarely used in a rhetorical manner to describe an event in a highly vivid way. The aorist/dramatic perfect is “used as a simple past tense without concern for present consequences…”
In this respect, it shares a kinship with the historical present. There are but a handful of examples of this in the NT, occurring only in narrative contexts. Thus this use is informed by contextual intrusions (narrative). The key to detecting a dramatic perfect is the absence of any notion of existing results.19 (19 footnote – Cf. Burton, Moods and Tenses, 80, 88. Burton doubts that any genuine examples actually occur in the NT.)
The perfect tense of 1 Timothy 2:14 is not in the aorist tense but in the indicative which is said to be rarely ever used this way. It is also not found within a narrative context. Lastly the perfect tense in 1 Timothy 2:14 is not identified only with the act and not the consequences. In fact verse 15 goes on to describe how “she” will come out of the consequences of being in the transgression (perfect tense) that is found in verse 14. Thus 1 Timothy 2:14 is not a historical perfect.
One other set of quotes are found in the book Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek by Constantine R. Campbell. In this book he admits that verbal aspect “represents a controversial area of research” and he does deal with the historical perfect that does not deviate from Wallace’s work. Campbell writes:
The perfect tense-form is often used in nonpresent contexts, most often past-referring. These are best translated like aorists, though are not the same as aorists in meaning. There are two basic types of historical perfects: those that introduce discourse and those that employ lexemes of propulsion. In this way, the historical perfect parallels the historical present almost exactly; the same functions are observed with the same group of lexemes…As with the historical present, such lexemes may also be used to refer to the present rather than the past. The point is, rather, that these lexemes may refer to the past when found in past contexts.
Campbell also writes:
Perfect tense-forms sometimes end up depicting a process or action in progress. This usage of the perfect tense-form is not widely acknowledged, though is a natural expression of imperfective aspect…As long as this progressive sense is not overruled by context, the Aktionsart may be progressive.
A word of caution: sometimes it is difficult to decide whether a perfect is progressive or historical when the context would allow either. Care must be exercised here, as the outcome can be quite different either way.
It is no wonder that some have tried to claim that the perfect tense in 1 Timothy 2:14 should be seen as a dramatic or historical perfect because leaving the perfect tense as is would disqualify “the woman” from referring to Eve and this is a problem for them. Instead of paying attention to the inspired grammar, some want to see it as a simple past tense by claiming the historical perfect. Unfortunately the boundaries around the historical perfect completely take 1 Timothy 2:14 outside the possibility that it qualifies as a historical perfect.
While Campbell warns people to be cautious in deciding that a perfect tense is a historical perfect, Wallace’s three points of determining the difference between the two remains solid. And the pivotal point still remains: The key to detecting a dramatic perfect is the absence of any notion of existing results. 1 Timothy 2:14 does not qualify in any sense of the word, to be a historical or dramatic perfect for verse 14 is attached to verse 15 which gives the expected final outcome from the existing condition.
Note: Those who take a contrary position will have to explain how a perfect tense can take the form of a historical perfect without any of the qualifying markers present in the passage.
4. The she who “will be saved” in verse 15 is in the future tense and cannot be made to fit a dead person such as Eve who cannot do anything in the future concerning her salvation.
Paul uses sozo (saved) in the future tense and he attaches it to a conditional conjunction – “if”. The “she” who has to do something to be in the place of salvation is connected to “the woman” from verse 14 who is in the present state of affairs of resulting consequences from her transgression. The perfect tense, the future tense and the conditions for future salvation all point to “the woman” as a single woman in Ephesus.
Paul wrote 1 Timothy to Timothy about specific problems in the Ephesian church. We can know that of anyone who would certainly understand what Paul was writing in this passage, it would be Timothy. Timothy was not confused. While Paul wrote Adam and Eve in 1 Timothy 2:13, he wrote Adam and “the woman” in verse 14. There is no such reference to Adam and “the woman” in the Old Testament. Where Adam’s name is connected to “woman”, it is listed as Adam and his wife. Thus the personal pronoun “his” is always attached to “woman” which makes it a definite woman through possession. In 1 Timothy 2:14 no such pronoun is attached to “the woman” to make her Adam’s woman. And when Paul continues to speak about her salvation, Timothy cannot help to know that this particular woman who has her salvation yet in the future, is not the first deceived woman attached to Adam, but one like her that Timothy is dealing with at the time of the letter. Timothy is certainly not confused about Paul’s grammar thinking that “the woman” is Eve who has salvation yet to come. The connection between Eve and “the woman” would be clear to Timothy because he knew “the woman”. Timothy would not be confused that this deceived woman was Eve.
I believe the key to verses 13-15 of 1 Timothy 2 is the continuing effects and the future tense because of deception. I do not think that Paul’s point is to identify the deception but the seriousness of deception in regards to one’s salvation. Timothy knew the problems and Timothy surely knew any conversations that he had participated in with Paul about why he was left behind in Ephesus. Timothy did not need to be told what the deception was because he knew all about the problems. Timothy needed to be encouraged to take action because the situation was serious. Paul’s connecting the present situation to the first deception in the garden is brilliant. It was a picture set up for Timothy to relate to that emphasized the seriousness of the current situation.
Adam’s neglect to enter into the conversation with the serpent as a savior towards one who was being deceived and then his participating in the act of sin with his eyes wide open to the deception and the consequences, should propel Timothy on to understand that deception is not to be ignored but to encourage the watchman on the wall to enter into the situation. Out of the two people listed in 1 Timothy 2:12 “a man” and “a woman”, only the “woman” is said to have her salvation questioned according to verse 15. The one who is not deceived must not be silent but help the one who is deceived. The repetition of the garden deception was not be repeated. Timothy’s instruction and the instruction for the non-deceived man was that he was needed to get involved in her learning and in her need to stay away from deception. Whether he had been dominated by her to stay quiet or not, the fact was that he had not been encouraging to her to stop her deception and he had not been involved in her learning the truth. Timothy could step in and get involved by helping them both. The man needed to be encouraged to walk alongside his wife in truth and the woman needed to be encouraged to learn and to stay away from error. Thus verse 15 says that “she will be saved…if they….”
Note: Those who disagree with me about “the woman” being a deceived woman in Ephesus, need to explain why Paul called Eve “the woman” rather than “his (Adam’s) wife”. Why does the Scriptures always resort to the possessive pronoun when referring to Eve and Paul did not use the possessive? It would have been normal for Paul to say either Adam and Eve or Adam and his wife. But never is there a reference to Adam and the woman. Why did Paul write this way? Also why would Paul speak about Eve as if her salvation is still future?
The last 4 points will be in the next post.