Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Women, Typology, and I Timothy 2:15

I haven't posted a plain old article in kind of a while.  It's pretty much just been book reviews.  But I ran across this one today, and I had to pass it along.  Mary Kassian writes a lot about issues for Christian women; I have no idea what her exegetical/theological/biblical interpretation qualifications are.  But she decided to take a crack at the ever-challenging I Timothy 2:15:
Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.  
 (1 Timothy 2:11–15, ESV)  Tough stuff, right?  Her take on it is that Paul is being typological, not ontological.  Since Adam is a type of Christ, and marriage is a type of the relationship between Christ and the Church, it follows that Eve--who was married to Adam--is a type of the Church.  So Kassian's reading is as follows:

For Adam (type of Christ) was formed first, then Eve (type of Church) – and Adam (type of Christ) was not deceived, but the woman (type of Church) was deceived and became a transgressor.
Yet she (the Church) will be saved through childbearing (bearing fruit in Christ)—if they (man and woman) continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
Interesting, to say the least.  And certainly more palatable than the literal interpretation that women are granted salvation on the basis of their fertility.  Still, I worry about these kinds of interpretations, because it sounds a lot like Kassian is saying "It doesn't mean what it says."  That is, the passage doesn't mean what it looks like it means.  Which is sometimes true.  But it is sometimes also used to explain away passages we don't want to be taken literally.   Women aren't actually restricted from leadership positions.  Marriage isn't really limited to one man and one woman.  Sex isn't always wrong outside of marriage.  Mary wasn't really a virgin.  Hell isn't a real place.  We won't actually be physically resurrected.  It's all symbolism.  Typology.  Metaphors.

Not that I think Kassian is wrong here.  (Though I look forward to hearing what respected theologians have to say about her take on an admittedly troublesome verse.)  But I wonder if it seems hypocritical to liberal theologians that it's "ok" for us to say that this verse is just typological, but, say, Ephesians 5:22-33 is meant to be taken at face value.  (In other words, I Timothy 2:15 isn't about women, per se; it's about the Church.  But we would disagree vehemently with the idea that Ephesians is admonishing the Church to submit to Christ but saying nothing about how actual wives behave to their actual husbands.)  Does that make it seem like we're having our cake and eating it too?  It means what it says it means unless we say otherwise?

I'm sure there's some basis for distinguishing this text from others, but I'm not enough of a theologian to articulate it clearly.

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