Most scholars strongly dispute that Paul wrote the Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus). It also seems as if these letters were written by the same person, based on an analysis of the vocabulary of these letters (as compared to Paul’s letters). More telling is the historical situation presumed in these letters, where some sort of church hierarchy is already established—elders/overseers and deacons.
Many feel that the gender egalitarianism of the early years of the church (for example, 1 Corinthians 11:5, where it is assumed women pray and prophesy in church) gave way to a more clearly male-centered hierarchy, which is reflected in the Pastoral Epistles, and especially in 1 Timothy. At the point of the church’s history found in 1 Timothy, women participating in worship was a problem that had to be dealt with. Some feel that this strong word against female involvement in worship reflects the popular cult of the goddess Artemis in Ephesus, though this is heavily debated and inconclusive.
The author argues that women must be silent in church and roots that view in the ancient story of Genesis 3. He argues that since Eve was deceived by the serpent and ate the fruit, women in general have forfeited the right to speak or teach on matters pertaining to God in the assembly. Many have noted the different view of Paul in Romans 5:12-21, where he interprets Genesis 3 as a story of Adam’s disobedience that brought sin and death to all.
These instructions concerning women are part of the larger theme of the letter, which focuses on instructing Timothy concerning false teaching. It is precisely this threat that requires strict qualifications to be observed for those who would be elders and deacons. On the other hand, 4:1-5 chides those who are overly restrictive in their view of religious matters. False teaching is easily marked by conceit, quarrelsomeness, and lust for financial gain.
We read here also much advice on how to live practically as a church, particularly concerning the treatment of widows and elders, and the relationship between Christian slaves and masters. Clearly all three were pressing matters for the recipients of this letter.
– Peter Enns