I have been using John Stott’s Issues Facing Christians Today for my small group materials since last semester (and have been enjoying it so far). Two weeks ago we were discussing about woman, man, and God. And of course 1 Tim 2.12-15, a vexed passage on this topic, was included in the discussion. For example, 1 Tim 2.12: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.”
One way to interpret this passage is that it was situational: “[T]hat the prohibition of women teaching may well refer to their teaching of heresy; and that the heresy which Paul combats in the Pastorals may have been an incipient Gnosticism, whose later developments ‘based their gnosis on a special revelation given to a woman’, notably Eve. She was the first to eat from the tree of knowledge (gnosis), had also (some taught) enjoyed a prior existence and was even Adam’s creator. She was, therefore, well qualified to instruct Adam.” (p. 341) And hence vv. 13-15 where Paul used the Adam and Eve story to deliver his point in v. 12.
But Stott didn’t buy into the argument because it is “anachronistic to refer to ‘Gnosticism’ as if it were already a recognizable system by the 60s of the first century AD.” (p. 341) That is, assuming that 1 Timothy was written in the 60s.
Well, in all fairness, the argument can go both ways. We could also say, precisely that’s why many scholars thought that the Pastoral letters (1-2 Timothy, Titus) were written in the beginning of the second century, where proto-Gnosticism indeed have begun to flourish.