This is part of our Lent series, “The Weeping Word“, where we look at different moments of crying, lament, and tears in the Scriptures.
To Timothy, my beloved child…
I am grateful to God—whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did—when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy.
—2 Timothy 1.2-4
Next week is Holy Week, the high (or low?) point of Lent, leading to the crescendo of Easter. It will be a time of darkness, reflection, lament, and meditation. But we’re not there yet. Before the seriousness of Holy Week arrives, I thought I’d share with you a funny memory that’s connected to our Lent series on tears in the Bible.
I was sitting in the little campus ministry Bible Study my junior year of college. Our style of Bible Study was simply sitting down with an eloquent, wise, and gifted pastor, and then walking verse-by-verse through a given book of the Christian Scriptures.
Having just finished nearly a year in the book of Romans, we were just starting our next book: 2 Timothy. Many scholars believe it was Paul’s last letter he wrote before he died. And he wrote it to the man he mentored more than any other we know about: Timothy, a young elder at the church in Ephesus who was still struggling to get this little church plant off the ground.
As I’ve been looking into these “Women in Ministry” discussions for this on-going series, they usually follow a similar pattern. Conservatives will point to some Bible verses, Egalitarians will point to the context (as I did in our last post), and then, at some point, the conservatives bring up this simple, yet logical and reasoned argument:
Yes, you can point to the cultural context all you want, but at the end of the day, Paul’s reason for what he says, is not the cultural context, but the very structure of pre-sin creation in which God created Adam first. This is something that’s true no matter the context.
Now, I’ve said repeatedly that my egalitarian beliefs come not from desire to move away from the Bible, but my attempts to be all the more obedient to it. And so, I want to take this argument as seriously as possible. I’ll attempt to do that in these posts.
As I started writing up the problems I had with this “creation-order” argument, it became so long, that I had to break it up into two posts. Today, we’ll focus on the particular Timothy passage in question and other related things that Paul writes. Tomorrow we’ll focus on the Genesis story itself to see what it might say to this.
The Timothy Passage
This Church season of Epiphany primarily celebrates the coming of the wise men to see the young Jesus. Now think of the popular conceptions of the “wise men”. I imagine the picture that comes to mind is much like the one above: a quaint manger, farm animals, some shepherds, and the three wise men, presenting their gifts to the newborn Jesus.
I’m not sure how many of us know how wrong this is.
The wise men did not visit Jesus in the manger, their paths did not cross at all with the shepherds (that we know of), and, contrary to some of the most well-engrained church and musical traditions, their number is not given–“three” is just a guess. This guess is probably based on the fact that three gifts were offered (though the 6th-century Armenian Infancy Gospel, the source of the Western tradition of the wise men’s names and ethnicities, lists far more than just three gifts). The Eastern Church tradition even says it was twelve.
And yet, for over a thousand years, on into the present day, these traditions concerning the Wise Men have persisted. We know the sources of these traditions, we know when they became popularized, and we know how they’ve been used in Christian preaching and church life through the centuries. Every Advent season, even the most cursory drive in the suburbs will offer nativity scenes peppered with three wise men adoring the manger-laden Christ.
This reminded me of Jannes and Jambres.