This morning, I anxiously read NTW's commentary on 1 Timothy 2:8-15. I really struggle with this passage because of how limiting it seems towards women.
NTW, however, pitches it in the context of the removal of gender stereotypes. He points to the existence of the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus (which is also where Timothy ministered). Artemis was a female deity, and she was ministered to in her temple by an all-women ensemble. Every priest of Artemis was female; all leadership in this religion was female.
This is the context NTW speculates is behind Paul's instructions to Timothy in this passage (1 Tim. 2:8-15). He says 2:8-10 is about the removal of gender stereotypes--men are to become men of prayer instead of the typical angry, argumentative husband. Women are not to adorn themselves like the flashy priestesses of Artemis, calling attention to themselves for how they look, but are to focus on good deeds, the building up of the community.
Then we come to 2:11-15, the passage used by many insincerely to hold women down, but also used sincerely as good Christians struggle with its interpretation.
NTW points out, correctly, that the bible typically holds women up in good ways: they were the first witnesses to Jesus' resurrection (therefore the first apostles?); women are possibly (likely?) mentioned in Romans 16 as apostles and deacons; women are expected to pray and prophesy in the worship assembly (1 Cor. 11).
Therefore, according to NTW, this passage should be seen as a corrective to the perspective that many women in Ephesus would have had--women were not to muscle their way into leadership and teaching roles in the church, but neither were they to be held down, separated from the men, and unable to learn.
Rather, women "must be allowed to study undisturbed, in full submission to God" (2:11; NTW's translation). He points out, correctly, I think, that even though the direct object of "full submission" is not mentioned in the text, it should be understood as God. That is, women need to be in full submission to God as they learn.
We've typically understood that, at least in the Church of Christ, to refer to women's submission to men. NTW's perspective makes more sense to me. Part of the submitting to God is to "learn" in "quietness," without assuming leadership and teaching roles.
Where I'm not so sure about NTW's perspective is in where he goes next. As he continues to translate this passage, he writes, "I'm not saying that women should teach men, or try to dictate to them; rather, that they should be left undisturbed" (2:12). His argument for this translation is that Paul did not intend to be understood the way we have understood him, but that Paul means women shouldn't be rushed into teaching and leadership roles; they should be allowed to learn at their own pace and in their own way.
Now, I completely agree with this last idea. Too often, men, especially those in "leadership," think they know best and can dictate to women how they are to learn. This is seen most often when men in leadership try to dictate or control how and when a women's class can meet, what the topic of the class can be, or who may teach such a class. The worst of this is seen when men expect a women's class to be taught by another man!
However, I really struggle with the first part of his argument. As much as I'd like to follow this interpretation, I just don't see it. I looked at several translations, even going back and doing a rough translation from Greek of my own. And I don't see it. At best, I see Paul correcting the abuses of the Artemis-religion and saying, "The church isn't to be like that."
Leaving aside the questions of 2:13-15, and whether this is Paul's opinion only (since he says "I do not permit," not "God does not permit"), a straightforward reading implies that the public teaching role in the church is to be led by men. But women should not be prevented in any way from learning. If they are, we have a problem.
As much as I'd like to go along with NTW on this point, textually, I can't. Your thoughts?