“There is much controversy in the modern church regarding the role of women. This series will briefly examine the apostle Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 2:11-14 as it is a passage that deals directly with the issue at hand. This first post will explore vv. 11-12 which give Paul’s prohibition in regards to the role of women in the church, and the subsequent and concluding post will explore vv. 13-14 which are explanatory of Paul’s prohibition.
11 “A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” (1 Timothy 2:11-12)
It is important to notice several aspects to the structure of Paul’s words. (1) Paul’s primary emphasis through the use of an inclusio is for women to remain “quiet” whilst assembled together formally as an assembly (v.11a & v.12c); (2) there are parallels that women are to “receive instruction” (v.11a) as opposed “to teach” (v.12a), and are to receive instruction “with entire submissiveness” (v.11b) as opposed to “exercis[ing] authority over a man” (v.12b); and (3) that the principle can be said that women are not to “exercise authority over a man”1 (v.12b) with the direct application of this principle that women are forbidden “to teach” (v.12a).2”
Paul’s command for women to quietly receive instruction is not harsh, rather it is positive in two ways. Firstly it expresses Paul’s “tender sympathy” according to William Hendriksen, as he is saying “let a woman not enter a sphere of activity for which by dint of her very creation she is not suited”, similarly as you would say, “let not a bird try to dwell under water…”3 Secondly, as Douglas J. W. Milne notes, Paul is making it clear that in the church women have the right and should “learn as genuine disciples…of Christ.”4
Paul continues that a woman’s learning is to be performed “with entire submissiveness” (v.11b). The object of whom the woman is to submit is vacant from the text, however given the context and the possible parallel with v.12b it is likely that her submission is directed toward men, but not all men, rather to her male overseers.5 Belleville argues against this asserting that “no authority resides in the act of teaching (or in the person who teaches)”, however the overseers and by implication the one teaching does have authority for the writer of Hebrews instructs both men and women to “[o]bey [their] leaders and submit to them…” (Hebrews 13:17).
As previously stated, Paul’s primary emphasis is that women remain “quiet” (v.11a & v.12c) and as such continues to explain further how a women is to perform their act of being “quiet”. Paul gives two clauses, women are (1) forbidden “to teach” and (2) to “exercise authority over a man” (v.12ab). In this small section it is these two prohibitions that have caused the most controversy. Many egalitarians reject this clear reading of Paul’s words. C. K. Barrett attempts to limit these prohibitions to within a marriage, narrowing the possible usage of the Greek. 6 However, with the consistent broad use of “men” and “women” found in vv.8, 9 & 10, this gives strong support that v.12ab are also to be taken broadly.7
I. Howard Marshal interprets v.12ab as not prohibiting teaching per se, instead he states “teaching is regarded as the expression of an attitude of superiority to the man, and it is essentially this attitude of superiority which is opposed.”8 This interpretation does not do justice to the text. Kenneth S. Wuest notes Paul’s use of the present tense didaskein, which he suggests prohibits women not from teaching (for they are encouraged to teach young women in Titus 2:3-4), but that the prohibition is of a woman becoming “a teacher” or one who has “authority in the Church in matters of doctrine and interpretation.”9 This understanding of “to teach” is agreed by Douglas Moo who sums it up in modern vernacular as “preaching”.10
Belleville suggests that v.12ab be translated “I do not permit a woman to teach with a view of dominating a man”.11 This translation is to be rejected for several reasons, (1) her preference of translation is based upon her own reconstruction of the events at Ephesus12, which should caution further exegetical conclusions.13 (2) To translate in such a way as to suggest ‘domineering’ over a man is to change the Greek into a negative. This verb is commonly expressed in the positive, and especially should be translated as such given that here it is coupled with a positive Greek verb didaskein.14 Furthermore, Mounce notes the research of Köstenburger which concludes the Greek verb authentein “should be seen as denoting an activity that is viewed positively in and of itself”.15 (3) To suggest that the Greek usage of oude (“and not,” “neither,” “nor”) should join “teach” and “exercise authority” together as one verb in Paul’s thinking does not stand as even though these two verbs are closely related, Paul does keep them distinct and clearly acknowledges that there is authority overseers have which is separate than teaching later in this same epistle (3:2, 4-5; 5:17).16 Finally, (4) it does not make logical sense why Paul would prohibit women from teaching in a domineering way, or in a way which is false, and not prohibit men from the same thing? Surely this kind of teaching, if it was Paul’s intent, would be prohibited to all, gender non-specific?17
In summary, from vv.11-12 the apostle Paul states that in the formal assembling together of the saints women are to remain “quiet” (v.11a & v.12c). He defines “quiet” in the following verses as “receiving instruction” (v.11a) rather than “teach[ing]” (v.12a), with an attitude of “submissiveness” (v.11b) never “excercis[ing] authority over a man” (v.12b). Paul’s instruction to Timothy as to the function and role of women clearly prohibits a woman – based solely on her gender – from becoming a Pastor and Teacher within the church.
In vv.13-14 Paul gives explanations for his prohibition, and it is these explanations that we will briefly examine in the next post.
- This is highly debated by some, for example Belleville (p. 81) suggests that women cannot teach in a way that attempts to dominate men. Objections will be dealt with later in this series. Belleville, L. L. (2005). Women in Ministry: An Egalitarian Perspective. In Two Views on Women in Minstry (pp. 19-103). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.) [↩]
- Mounce, W. D. (2000). Word Biblical Commentary – Pastoral Epistles (Vol. 46). (B. M. Metzger, D. A. Hubbard, & G. W. Barker, Eds.) USA: Thomas Nelson Publishers. p.117 [↩]
- Hendriksen, W. (1968). New Testament Commentary – Exposition of Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic. p.109 [↩]
- Milne, D. J. (1996). 1 Timothy 2 Timothy Titus. Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications Ltd. p. 54. [↩]
- Mounce, p. 120 [↩]
- Barrett, C. K. (1963). The Pastoral Epistles. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 55. [↩]
- Knight, G. W. (Spring 1975). The New Testament Teaching on the Role Relationship of Male and Female with Special Reference to the Teaching/Ruling Functions in the Church. The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (Vol. 18, No. 2), 81-91. (p.85) [↩]
- Marshall, I. H. (1984). The Role of Women in the Church. In S. Lees (Ed.), The Role of Women – When Christians Disagree (pp. 177-197). England: Inter-Varsity Press. p. 192 [↩]
- Wuest, K. S. (1952). The Pastoral Epistles in The Greek New Testament. In Wuest’s Word Studies From the Greek New Testament (Vol. II). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p. 48. [↩]
- Moo, D. (2006). What Does it Mean not to Teach or Have Authority Over Men? 1 Timothy 2:11-15. In J. Piper, & W. Grudem (Eds.), Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood (pp. 179-193). Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books. p.186 [↩]
- Belleville, p. 88 [↩]
- Ibid, p. 89 [↩]
- For further discussion on this point see (Moo, p. 187) [↩]
- Milne, p. 55 [↩]
- Köstenburger cited in Mounce, p. 130 [↩]
- For further discussion on this point see Moo, p. 187 [↩]
- Mounce, p. 128 [↩]
HERE is the rest of the post!