The preacher at seminary this morning said that she would be focusing on 1 Timothy 2:8 in her sermon. She seemed to travel a little more widely, but it did make me stop and think about that particular verse. In the NIV it goes "I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing." It is my habit (and I imagine many of ours) to generalise the word 'men' to 'people' because that is usually correct according to the way the Bible is translated. In this case the word 'men' is intentionally gender specific. Do I need to say that I know this because the Greek has different words for man as in male and man as in human being?
It puts a new slant on the verse. The writer is speaking to men in particular. And I would say that this is not because he wants only men to pray, but because he has observed that men specially are/were given to anger and argument.
And this really helps bring the next two verses into perspective. Because these verses address women and presumably address a weakness that the writer has observed in women in general, or in his particular circumstance.
Verses 11 and 12 then address potential conflict between men and women (women not to teach or dominate men).
And so it becomes very likely that the writer is addressing a conflict situation. First he addresses men - your anger is part of the problem. Secondly women - your what? Showiness and competitiveness? These are part of the problem. And then he says that men and women in conflict with each other isn't helping either.
The point of these verses is not necessarily appropriate roles for men and women in all situations, but a recognition that conflict in the church is ugly and should be avoided - even if means letting go of your 'rights' for a time.