1 Timothy 2:3-4 – The Quiet Life

1 Timothy 2 is one of the most difficult passages in the New Testament, primarily because of the potential abusive applications of the second half of the chapter.  It has been used to silence the voice of women in the church, despite the very clear Pauline teaching that in Christ there is neither male to female.  Perhaps the situation is clouded by American political debate over feminism and the role of women in the church. Before getting to the really controversial section, I want to set the context of the chapter.

The Quiet Life before it became a hipster clothing line

The Quiet Life before it became a hipster clothing line

Paul’s main point in 1 Timothy is that the church ought to conduct itself in a way that is honoring to God and attractive to outsiders.  In order to honor God, Paul insists that Timothy guard the truth of the Gospel and train others to keep that deposit of truth faithfully.  In this section of the letter, Paul tells Timothy that the local church must conduct meetings in such a ways as to gain the respect of outsiders.  On the one hand, this means praying for authorities, but more problematic is Paul’s concern that the behavior of some members of the congregation run the risk of repelling the outsider, the Greek or Roman who needs the Gospel.

The reason Paul gives is that the Christian community would be seen as dignified and worthy of respect (v. 3-4). Paul wants his churches to be models of a dignified “quiet life.”  What is a peaceful (ἤρεμος) and quiet (ἡσύχιος) life?  This sounds a bit Amish from our modern perspective, but these two words are Greco-Roman virtues.  Socrates was a model for the Greeks of calm in the face of peril, (Theon, Progymnasmata, 8; Rhet. Graec., II, 111, 27 f.) and rulers ought to be calm (Xenoph. Ag., 11, 2. 6. 20; Isoc. Or., 2, 23; TDNT 6:646).

In a Greek papyri dated to the sixth century A.D. (P Oxy I. 1298) a father repudiates a betrothal because he wishes that his daughter “should lead a peaceful and quiet life” (εἰρηνικὸν καὶ ἡσύχιον βίον διάξαι, MM, 281). While this is dated well after the writing of 1 Timothy, a similar use of the The word appears in PsSol 12:5:  “May the Lord protect the quiet person who hates injustice; may the Lord guide the person who lives peacefully at home.”  This is a Jewish text, probably reflecting the Pharisees, predating Paul by about 100 years.  The writer parallels one who is quiet (ἡσύχιος) and lives peacefully (although the more common εἰρήνη is used).

Paul also describes this idea life as “godly and dignified in every way.”  Both words would be idea virtues in the Greco-Roman world as well as the Christian or Jewish. The word “godly” is the common word εὐσέβεια, and was used by Diogenes Laertius (third century A.D.) for “the pious follow sacrificial custom and take care of temples” and was common used in the Aeneid to describe “pious” people (BDAG).

The word translated ‘dignified” (σεμνότης) The word is often translated with the Latin gravitas.  It is often associated with “denotes a man’s visible deportment.”  When Josephus retells the story of Saul and the witch of Endor, she recognizes the king because he carries himself like a king; in retelling the story of Pharaoh’s first encounter with Joseph, Philo comments that the king was impressed with Joseph’s dignity (Philo, Jos. 257, cf. 165).

This command is not unusual in the Pauline letters. “live a quiet life” is similar to Paul’s exhortation in 1 Thessalonica 4:1-12.  In that context, there were individuals who were not working to provide for their own needs.  The ultimate motivation for living in a quiet, dignified manner is that the outsiders will see this and “come to a knowledge of the truth.”

Since the quiet, dignified life was a virtue in the Greco-Roman world, any chaos or discord in the church would drive people away from the Gospel. With this “quiet dignified life” in mind, Paul then turns to a problem in the Ephesian churches which is disrupting that kind of life and potentially bringing shame on the church.  This problem appears to center on some women in the Ephesian churches who are not living a “quiet dignified life.”

6 thoughts on “1 Timothy 2:3-4 – The Quiet Life

  1. Very nice post.

    I recently read an excellent article pertaining to if Paul is anti-feminist and a woman hater, as some claim, based on the exhortation you are commenting. Unfortunately it is in Greek… I have to get around to translating it and share it with a post.

    • I think that there are probably alot of “Paul Hates Women” articles out there. I find that strange, since he seems open to women sharing in the ministry. These passages are the controversial ones, and they drive the discussion, not Phoebe as a co-worker, or Junia.

      Let me know when you translate it, maybe share the “high points.”

  2. This topic is really interesting to me because I feel that some take Paul’s words about women remaining silent in the church in 1 Timothy too far and not wanting women to have any “authority” in church leadership at all. I have seen this at my own church where a few elders have been extremely upset when our pastor stated that women are able to have leadership roles in worship. It seems clear to me that Paul is not taking it to this extreme, especially thinking about Galatians 3:28 when he says there is no distinction between anyone in Christ. As Christians, we do need to keep in mind how our lives appear to those outside. By living a “quiet” life, we lead others by example. Living dignified lives is an outward expression of our beliefs, honoring Christ.

  3. Pohill does a very nice job talking about the context of this topic on page 410 when he says, “In their social context the women would have had little formal education and were scarcely qualified to teach. Paul wanted the women to be educated…” I do not think Paul said women needed to live a quiet life simply because he did not want women to stand up for themselves, but because they did not have the education and knowledge to effectively teach or speak out. If a women, or anyone for that matter, is not adequately educated in something, it is probably best that they do not speak up about because they might put out false information. Since men did have the education to speak out it and they are called by God to be the leaders, it would be way out of line – at least in that time – for a woman to try to take over. In today’s culture, however, women have the opportunities to learn and grow to where they can teach and help disciple other people. That being said, I do think men should be the ones to take the leadership role and set a godly example – as long as they are following God and doing it ‘right’, women should not have to take over – but they should still be able to teach when possible. For example, in the family setting women are called to take care of the home and the kids – raising kids involves a lot of teaching and instructing.

  4. Personally i love that Paul encourages people to live peaceful and quiet lives, because i think that modern day christians often forget this ideal. I remember reading in a Rob Bell book (i’m not sure which one, and yes i know he is often considered a heretic, bear with me) about this idea. He makes the point that throughout the new testament, in both Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching, there is never an inclination that Christians should be leading the society, or even be the elite of society. I think that Paul’s encouragement of a peaceful and quiet life ties right into the idea that we ought to be living in the background, inspiring change but not taking credit for it. Christians ought to be praying for the government that God has allowed to lead us, but not trying to take over, not trying to conquer. While this idea may be completely left field, i feel that it could have very significant ideals for Christians, particularly when dealing with disapproval of decisions that the government is making, and the direction that the government is going. This peaceful and quiet life ties directly into the early church idea that Jesus is coming soon, so why try to change the world that will soon be changed permanently?

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