Dr. Gary Hoag sheds light on a controversial passage in 1 Timothy about women, hairstyles, child-birth and the prohibition on speaking in church from his research on “Ephesiaca” authored by Xenophon of Ephesus. This story was written approximately 50 AD, which is right about the same timeframe that Paul was headquartered in Ephesus, according to Luke’s “Acts of the Apostles.” Paul was centered there perhaps around 52-54.
Here’s the passage: 1 Timothy 2:9-15 “…also that the women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair plaited or with gold, pearls or expensive clothes, but with good works, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God. Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through child-bearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.”
“When looking at this passage alongside additional evidence provided to me by “Ephesiaca,” what I discovered was, in scrutinizing that passage where wealth was in view, where hair is plaited with gold and pearls, I found that this coiffure, this hairstyle, can be linked with “Ephesiaca,” to the hairstyle all women would wear to show their piety to the goddess Artemis.
So what it seems that Paul and the author of 1 Timothy may be saying to women in the Ephesian context, is to adorn themselves modestly and with discretion, not with this hairstyle associated with the goddess, but with good deeds, or, in other words, good works that come with a cost, to show their piety toward God.
Now, where this fits in the literary co-text, is that young women in Ephesus, according to my research, would have not learned in silence, but learned daily in the temple precincts through, like, incantation and reciting prayers. Learned prayers, so that visitors from around the ancient world who would come to the Artemisiam to hear stories, such as how Artemis was the mother of all life, and so it would be like, in modern terms, they were visiting the Creation Museum to hear how the origin of the world, the origin of life, came through Artemis.
And how do we know this? Posaneous, in his guide to Greece, says the Hepta Themata, the seven sites, the seven wonders of the ancient world, number two, the penultimate site is the Artemisium, this grand temple where visitors from all over the world would go and visit.
And why would they go there? To pay their respects to Artemis, who watched over the wealth of the kings of the earth. And so it was in many ways like a Wall Street of the ancient world. But they would go there also because she was viewed as the mother of all life.
And so, what’s interesting when you look at this text in light of this additional evidence, you find that what really might be happening here is women, who were trained from a young age to promote the Artemis myth – that Artemis was the mother of all life and that Artemis was, that it wasn’t woman but through man that sin entered the world. That’s what the Artemis/Diana/Isis myth promoted–these women are basically being told that in the house of God, we don’t continue to promote this myth.
Now, what I think is most fascinating is, people who have used this text to talk about the role of women in ministry, have wrestled with what do we do with, saved through this act of child bearing at the end. Well, interestingly, Artemis, because she helped her mother, in Greek anthology, she helped her mother Leto deliver her twin brother Apollo, she became known as the goddess of child bearing. So the social pressure on women was that, if I don’t remain loyal to the goddess, I’m going to die during child bearing.
And so what’s so beautiful in this text, is the author of 1 Timothy is saying squarely to young women an Ephesian context, you don’t have to dress like the goddess. Do good deeds to show your loyalty is elsewhere, toward the God of heaven.
Oh and by the way, I don’t permit ladies who, maybe have this pagan background, to come in and teach that–and I prefer the rendering of the Kroegers on that Greek word authentein, not as “authority over man” but as “author of man”—I do not permit a woman to teach that she is the author of man, for Adam was created first, then Eve.
In other words, it’s helping women understand a proper view of origin, a proper view of where sin came from. And, they don’t have to fear that they’re going to die during child bearing, but they are going to be preserved through child bearing if they continue in faith, love and holiness with modesty.
So that’s an example of how this fresh evidence, “Ephesiaca” by Xenophon of Ephesus, speaks to difficult texts.”