"Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression." - 1 Tim. 2:11-14
This is something that I held against Christianity as an atheist, and this passage still troubles me. How are we to understand these words of St. Paul? Should women really stay silent and not teach? Is it true that "Adam was not deceived, but the woman [was] deceived"? What's more, St. John Chrysostom said of this passage:
"If it be asked, what has this to do with women of the present day? it shows that the male sex enjoyed the higher honor. Man was first formed; and elsewhere he shows their superiority. 'Neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man.' (1 Cor. 11:9) Why then does he say this? He wishes the man to have the preeminence in every way; both for the reason given above, he means, let him have precedence, and on account of what occurred afterwards. For the woman taught the man once, and made him guilty of disobedience, and wrought our ruin. Therefore because she made a bad use of her power over the man, or rather her equality with him, God made her subject to her husband."
It seems like explanation of St. John Chrysostom is simply that men are superior, and women really should keep it quiet. What are we to make of this?
Paul's words and teachings do not mean that "women" are not allowed to speak or teach. What Paul actually objects to is the subordination of men to their women (wife) in a marital relation. It should be kept in mind that Paul refers to the story of fall in Genesis only to support his argument that women should not be the head of the family. Adam and Eve were the first couple of mankind, and their unity was blessed by God, who used Adam as an instrument while creating Eve. The serpent, on the other hand, used (Eve) as an instrument while deceiving Adam. Let's see how the serpent turned the chain of creation upside down to banish Adam and Eve out of the garden:
Creation (God) ----->Adam -------> Eve
Deception and sin (Serpent) --------> Eve ---------> Adam
God used the same order of creation while questioning man and the woman after their sin
God asks Adam, who directs God to Eve, who directs God to the serpent.
And for the punishment:
God first curses the serpent, then declares Eve's punishment, then declares Adam's punishment.
Genesis 3:16 makes it clear that the sin made the woman subordinate to her husband: "Thou shalt be under thy husband's power, and he shall have dominion over thee." This first pattern of marriage is drawn by God in association with the first sin. Apostle Paul only reiterates this teaching and objects to the female leaders in Christian families. Thus, Paul's statements are confined to marital relations.
Likewise, Paul's zeal to keep women silent in the Church is again related to his zeal to conform Christian marriages to the pattern of the first marital union devised by God, for he directs such talkative women to the authority of their husbands:I Corinthians 14:34-35
Let women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted them to speak but to be subject, as also the law saith. But if they would learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home
. For it is a shame for a woman to speak in the church.
Interestingly, Paul's impressive thelological lecture on the first sin and its consequences does not refer to the primacy of a gender in creation or deception by the serpent as he simply says that sin entered the world by a MAN:Romans 5:12
Wherefore as by one man
sin entered into this world and by sin death: and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned.
Paul definitely knew that the first judge of Israel was a woman named Deborah. He was also aware of female prophets that had the same authority as the male ones. He also knew that Jesus revealed His identity to a Samaritan woman, who proclaimed Jesus to her town. Thus, it is not plausible to consider Paul a follower of misogyny.