Studying Rev. Bruce C. E. Fleming’s research so far has taught me:
A. The meaning of 1 Timothy’s ancient text can only be understood using the ancient keys everyone had in those days. (See Three Keys to 1 Timothy)
- understanding the point of the whole letter. (In this case, correcting some wayward leaders.)
- understanding wordplay. (In this case, the double meaning of “Faithful is the Word.” [Jesus and sayings])
- understanding how a letter was layered. (In this case, Paul writing of his own sins as examples of failure, Jesus’ intervention, learning, and being transformed into a faithful servant.)
B. Koine Greek is different than modern English. (!) (See Let Her Learn):
- Gender neutral language was commonly used.
- Male gendered language was routinely used for mixed gender groups (even when females outnumbered males in the group).
- Sentence structures and paragraph structures were intuited through the kinds of and ways that verbs were used, not so much by spacing, punctuation, or even word placement. (There was no spacing, punctuation was very rare, and word placement was not as important.)
- Nouns could act as adjectives, and verbs could act as adverbs.
So, a brief summary of what Paul was saying to Timothy, according to Fleming’s research and synthesis, would be:
11 Let these women learn! –
in quietness and with all studiousness (in subjection to teacher and studies).
12 I am not permitting them to incorrectly teach (method and content) men but to be in quietness (while they are retraining).Bruce Fleming, “Think Again About Church Leaders”
Bruce Fleming suggests “incorrectly” and “method and content” could be how the verb “authentein” would act in this sentence: as a descriptor of the verb “teach.” )
Paul was expecting there to be pushback on his instructions, as evidenced by Paul’s use of the word “authentein,” in verse 12, which means “autonomous use or possession of unrestricted force/power,” and by Paul having taken pains to correct these women in their ostentatious display of wealth and power. It seems these particular women leaders had already caused a great deal of hurt and injury within the body of Christ. So, why would Paul encourage such a gentle and redemptive way to deal with them, when he had not only recommended but executed a far more serious correction with the two blasphemers (as shown below)?
By rejecting conscience, certain persons have suffered shipwreck in the faith; among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have turned over to Satan, so that they may learn not to blaspheme.1 Timothy 2:19-20 (NRSV)
The answer, as Rev. Fleming points out, comes in Paul’s digression on Eve’s experience in Genesis 2-3. Paul wanted to explain why it was right to give these women a chance to learn, to become mature in knowledge and in character, so they might be ready to lead and teach as elders of the church.
Thinking through Fleming’s work, this part of Paul’s letter to Timothy began to take shape in my mind.
“You see,” Paul was writing to Timothy, “This is the very thing Eve was never given. Adam, who was formed first, did not teach Eve well. He left her vulnerable to be deceived, and she was indeed profoundly deceived, which resulted in terrible injury. On the other hand, Adam knew what he was doing. He sinned on purpose. For Eve, there were consequences, but it was Adam who ushered in earth’s curse.
“There are two kinds of sinners, Timothy. Those who sin on purpose, with every intent, and those who sin out of ignorance because they are deceived.
“You know I was in that second category, and God dealt gently with me. Look where I am today! These women are also in that second category. Let’s give them what they need to become as I am today, through the faithfulness of the Word (Jesus and His ways and teaching).”
Well, that gets us through verses 13 and 14, but what about verse 15? That’s a puzzler. I have read at least a half dozen ways of understanding what Paul meant with this one sentence.
Who is “she”?
- Is it the woman Paul was talking about in verses 11-12?
- Is it Eve?
- Is it just a generic reference to women in general?
What is meant by “childbearing”?
- Does it mean the woman in verses 11-12 should concentrate on her own hearth and home, have children, toe that line?
- Does it mean the seed who would one day crush the serpent, in Genesis 3:15?
- Does it mean women don’t need to turn to the local religious teachings, amulets, methods, to protect them in childbirth? (Rather than trust in Christ?)
- Is this some oblique reference to women refusing to have children (either through birth control or celibacy)?
Dr. Joy Elasky Fleming’s conclusion is really quite compelling. She sees the arc of woman’s story being rescued by Jesus, and I can see it, too. Through woman would one day come the second Adam, the man who would redeem rather than rule, who would give grace over judgment, who would empower women to become the ezer kenegdo God had created them to be.
It is through Jesus that Paul’s instruction to Timothy was made possible. It is Jesus Who is faithful, and Jesus’ teaching and way that has opened the path to truth and life for all women. And it is because of Jesus that grace is made available to every sinner, beginning with Paul himself.
“But,” Paul continued, “Though the way is made open to all, not all will choose to go by that way. These (specific) women leaders who have been causing such injury to the church may yet become wise, mature teachers and leaders,
provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.”1 Timothy 2:15b (NRSV)
Paul did not know for certain whether the women he was encouraging Timothy to instruct and correct would receive it well. Maybe they all would. Maybe only some would. What they wanted, 1 Timothy 3:1, “…whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task,” was a worthy goal, but it would not be granted them merely because they had money, or influence, or were benefactors of the church, or had forceful personalities, and so on.
It would come as they learned the things of Christ and lived them out, which is actually the topic for 1 Timothy 3: What Makes One Eligible To Be An Elder
I have learned a lot from the Flemings, and I hope to take their seven session course Think Again at some point in the near future. Still, there are a few more theologians I’d like to spend time with before I feel 1 Timothy 2:12 has gotten its due. Next week, I’ll work through Dr. A. Nyland’s groundbreaking work in translating 1 Timothy 2 (and, by the way, the entire New Testament) in “The Source.”
 Rev. Fleming has several graduate degrees, published a couple of books, and helped to found a number of churches. He’s married to Dr. Joy Elasky Fleming, who has been a seminary and college professor, and international speaker. Together they’ve created an online course called “Think Again,” covering “The seven problem Bible passages on women and men in church, the family and the world. (Instructed by Bruce C. E. Fleming)”
 Many thanks to Dr. Joy Elasky Fleming for her scholarship on these verses
[Mary Consoles Eve | Jim Forest, Flickr, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/