The conjunction “therefore” (oun) concerns matters to which Timothy needed to give attention while in Ephesus. Paul urged that, when the community of believers assembled, “supplications [déesis], prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings” be made “for all men” or for all people. He introduced this appeal with the words “first of all.” This could mean that prayer for all people is of prime importance. Another possibility is that, among other matters, Paul was making the request concerning prayer first. (2:1)
The Greek term déesis may refer to a very intense form of prayer, with the individual approaching God as a suppliant or a beggar. Prayers are requests or petitions directed to God, and intercessions are prayers on behalf of others. Thanksgivings are expressions of gratitude for God’s gifts, blessings, guidance, and aid. (2:1)
Believers were to pray for kings and all others occupying high positions. This was most appropriate, for rulers could use their authority for the benefit or to the injury of Christ’s disciples. The attitude of rulers toward them had a bearing on whether they would be able to live a peaceful and quiet life. If those in high station came to believe misrepresentations and began to view believers as a threat, this would have had serious consequences. They could have faced having their possessions plundered, being beaten, imprisoned, and even killed. If, however, rulers had the opportunity to hear the truth about Christ’s disciples, they would have been in a better position to make just decisions when opposers misrepresented or falsely accused them. So the prayers for rulers had a desirable object in view. It was in the best interests of believers to be able to enjoy peace and quiet, being left undisturbed to pursue a godly life and to aid others to learn about God’s means of deliverance from sin and condemnation. Without having to face governmental opposition, they would find it much easier to live in a godly manner and with seriousness or with the dignity associated with those who act responsibly. (2:2)
“This [is] good and acceptable before our Savior, God.” Numerous manuscripts link this phrase to what precedes it with the conjunction “for” (gar). The words may be understood to mean that praying for all people is good and pleasing in God’s sight or that living a peaceful and quiet life with all godliness and dignity is good and acceptable to him. As the author of the arrangement for deliverance from sin and condemnation, God is the Savior. (2:3)
It is God’s will that “all men” or all people be saved and reconciled to him and come to a knowledge of the truth. This truth pertains to Christ and how through him all people can be forgiven of their sins and become God’s approved children. The truth of the good news that Paul proclaimed about the Son of God stood in sharp contrast to the falsehoods that certain ones in Ephesus were promoting. (2:4)
That believers would pray for all people regardless of their station in life is only right, for there is but one God and one mediator between God and humans. The “man Christ Jesus,” in his capacity as mediator, effects a reconciliation with his Father of all who put faith in him. (2:5)
The basis for his mediatory function is his sacrificial death. “He gave himself a ransom for all.” Upon surrendering his life, Jesus Christ ransomed or bought the entire human race, making it possible for all who accepted this arrangement in faith to be forgiven of their sins and to be reconciled to God. The testimony concerning this was to be made known in its “own time.” After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the time came for this witness to be given, urging people everywhere to repent of their sins and to accept the ransom price he had paid for them. (2:6; for other meanings regarding the “testimony,” see the Notes section.)
For the purpose of bearing witness, Paul was divinely appointed as a proclaimer and an apostle (one sent forth to make known the message about Christ). He solemnly affirmed his being a proclaimer and an apostle, saying, “I speak the truth, I am not lying.” Then he identified himself as a “teacher of nations in faith and truth.” Paul taught people of the nations about faith in God and Christ and made known the truth about them, conveying everything that was needed for individuals to become part of the family of God’s beloved children. (2:7; see the Notes section.)
At this point, the apostle again directed attention to matters pertaining to the community of believers. When believers assembled in various places, Paul wanted men to do the praying, “raising holy hands without wrath and disputes.” One of the attitudes assumed when praying was to raise the arms with open palms as would a suppliant. The men who prayed should be able to do so with “holy hands” or hands that did not have the stain of sin. Moreover, they should be at peace with fellow believers, not harboring anger or being involved in controversies or debates. (2:8; see the Notes section.)
The Greek term for “woman” (gyné) can also mean “wife.” Therefore, Paul’s comments may either be understood as applying to women generally or more specifically to wives. When assembling with fellow believers, they were to comport themselves in keeping with what society commonly expected from exemplary women or wives when they entered the public sphere. They were not to attract undue attention to themselves by the way they clothed or adorned themselves. Instead, believing women or wives were to dress modestly and sensibly, avoiding expensive apparel, gold ornamentation or pearls, or braiding their hair to form intricate or attention-getting designs. (2:9; see the Notes section.)
Their attire should reveal to observers that it was becoming for women who, by engaging in good works, were committed to godliness. These “good works” would include extending hospitality to strangers, helping the needy, and caring well for the family. (Compare Acts 9:36, 39; 1 Timothy 5:10; Titus 2:4, 5.) Additionally, by not flaunting wealth, believing women would avoid giving the appearance of elevating themselves above the more numerous fellow believers with limited means, including slaves. All were members of just one family of God’s beloved children. (2:10)
In the congregation, a wife or woman would not be disruptive or put herself forward, but her role would be that of a learner or quiet listener “in all submissiveness.” This would harmonize with the subordinate place of women in the family arrangement, where the husband occupied the position of household head. (2:11)
As to teaching publicly in the congregation, Paul continued, “I do not allow a woman [or wife] to teach nor to have authority over a man, but to be quiet.” It would have been contrary to the sense of modesty and propriety for a woman to step out of her role as a wife under her husband’s headship and to instruct him and other husbands publicly. In the public sphere, she would be a quiet or a respectful listener. (2:12) Whereas Paul taught that believing men and women had an equal standing before God as his beloved “sons” or children, he did not mean for the arrangement of headship in the family to cease nor did he intend for this to change the distinct cultural roles of men and women in the public sphere.
The apostle based his stand concerning the role of women on what he recognized as precedents contained in the book of Genesis. “Adam was formed first; then Eve.” By reason of his priority of existence, Adam occupied the position of a teacher, one from whom his wife learned. (2:13) Upon acting independently of her husband as head, she was deceived regarding the forbidden fruit and transgressed the divine command. Adam, on the other hand, was not deceived, but “listened” to his wife, choosing to heed her words to join her in disobeying God’s command. In the Genesis account, Eve alone is represented as having been deceived, for only she is quoted as saying that the serpent had deceived her. Adam made no reference to having been deceived by Eve but is quoted as saying, “The woman whom you gave [to be] with me, she gave me [fruit] from the tree, and I ate.” (2:14; Genesis 3:12, 13, 17)
It appears that the apostle still had thoughts from the Genesis account in mind when he added, “But she will be saved through childbearing, if they remain in faith and love and holiness [along] with propriety [sophrosýne].” The judgment pronounced on Eve involved childbearing and the difficulties that would attend it. Seemingly, Paul saw in this aspect the role of women in the home. Being occupied with raising children and caring for household affairs, a woman would be “saved,” possibly meaning delivered or protected from taking a course that would be spiritually injurious to her. Later in this letter, Paul encouraged younger widows to marry, raise children, and manage a household. Not having family responsibilities and so being idle, certain young widows had ended up going from house to house as gossips and busybodies, talking about matters that should have been kept private. Some even had experienced spiritual ruin. (5:11-15) “Childbearing,” including all the duties and responsibilities associated with family life, would have saved these widows (had they remarried) from pursuing a wrong course. (2:15)
Possibly the singular “she will be saved” is a collective singular, and the qualification for being saved, which is expressed as a plural verb (“if they remain”), could apply to women as individuals. Women would be saved or delivered from situations that could cause them to fall, provided they continued to maintain their faith in God and Christ, manifested love in their interactions with others, and lived holy or pure lives. The Greek term rendered “propriety” can denote “soundness of mind,” “reasonableness,” “moderation,” or “decency.” In this context, it appears to designate the kind of conduct and bearing that is associated with good judgment and moderation. (2:15)
The concluding phrase of verse 6 is elliptical. As a result, the words have been variously understood. One interpretation is that Christ gave his life as a ransom so that he, at God’s appointed time, confirmed that God desires to save all. According to another view, Christ’s surrendering his life was confirmed to all at God’s appointed time.
Translations vary considerably in the meaning their renderings of verse 6 convey. “He [Christ Jesus] is proof that came at the right time.” (NCV) Christ Jesus “sacrificed himself to win freedom for all mankind, revealing God’s purpose at God’s good time.” (REB) “He [Christ Jesus] gave himself to rescue all of us. God showed us this at the right time.” (CEV) “He gave himself as a ransom for us all — an act of redemption which happened once, but which stands for all time as a witness to what he is.” (J. B. Phillips)
With reference to Paul’s speaking the truth (in verse 7), numerous manuscripts include “in Christ.”
In verse 8, the conjunction “therefore” (oun) links the expression of Paul’s desire respecting prayer with his having been appointed as a proclaimer and an apostle to people of the nations, making known God’s purpose for humans to be delivered from sin and condemnation. The connection appears to be that, in view of the apostle’s universal commission, all “men” or all people are rightly the object of prayer.
Both singular and plural forms of the Greek word for “dispute” (in verse 8) are found in extant manuscripts.
The application of Paul’s admonition about attire and adornment (verse 9) also harmonized with what unbelievers would have regarded as exemplary. A work attributed to a female Pythagorean philosopher of the fourth or third century BCE states that a woman should not wear transparent, ornate or silk clothes, but should dress modestly in white. Thus she would not appear overdressed or as a woman given to luxury and would avoid making other women envious. She should not adorn herself with gold or emeralds, for these are costly and manifest arrogance toward women of limited means.
In the first century CE, the Roman statesman and philosopher Seneca, in a personal letter to his mother, praised her for not being impressed by jewels or pearls and for refusing to wear immodest clothing that would have “exposed no greater nakedness” upon being removed. He added, “Your only ornament, the kind of beauty that time does not tarnish, is the great honor of modesty.”
The Jewish philosopher Philo (c. 20 BCE to c. 50 CE) drew a distinction between the public sphere of men and the private sphere of women, and then indicated that a respectable woman would not want to be seen “going about like a woman who walks the streets in the sight of other men.” (Special Laws, III, 169-171)