1Ti 2:12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
This is a completely new rework of a study published at the old website. In First Timothy, Paul is giving Timothy instructions about guiding the church at Ephesus to observe proper doctrine. Here is the same verse in interlinear format:
gunaiki de didaskein ouk
A woman for to teach not
I permit neither have authority over
man but to be in silence.
Note: If Greek characters do not display properly, please install unicode fonts.
Let us review Paul’s words in the context of the surrounding passage. Paul is giving instructions to his disciple, Timothy, who, according to tradition was the bishop of Ephesus. Though the scripture does not specify this, it does state that Paul sent Timothy to the church at Ephesus to halt the teaching of false doctrine (1 Tim 1:3). Therefore, Timothy was in a position of spiritual authority at the church. It doesn’t matter whether or not he was the bishop or pastor, for Paul sent him there as his official agent to promote the teaching of true doctrine. This also implies that the people at the Church at Ephesus were willing to accept Timothy as Paul’s delegate. It is certainly possible that Timothy became the Bishop of Ephesus when he was older. Here, though he is a young man who is apparently just starting out in ministry (1 Tim 4:12).
Paul gives his instructions to Timothy throughout the entire Epistle. Hence the entire Epistle is dedicated to instructing Timothy in how to carry out his mission to prevent false doctrine from entering into the church. Our main objective is the study of verse twelve in this context.
Paul discusses how women should act while in church at Ephesus in I Tim 2:9-15. The main verse of our study, 2 Tim 2:12, is in the middle of Paul’s instructions about the role of women in the church. These instructions were not just for the women at Ephesus, for Paul also gives instructions for women’s conduct during church meetings in 1 Cor 14:35-36. Paul further gives instructions on how women should conduct themselves in spiritual matters in several of his epistles. Peter does so as well. Let me remind you that they both give many instructions for men’s conduct as well.
Please do not think that Paul singles out women in his letter. He categorically does not. Throughout the epistle he gives instruction for political authorities, men, women, church leaders, servants, and their masters. In fact he devotes less time to women that he does to men and servants. Another point is that most of the things he prescribes for women in the church apply to men as well as we shall see later in this study.
Let us take a moment to consider another important point. These things are contained in scripture and are thus actual instructions from God. He inspired Paul to write these things and we are to regard them as God’s requirements. We know that all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is useful for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16). We also know that Paul’s writings are scripture (2 Pet 3:16).
Apparently Timothy was in a tough position and wanted to be relieved of his duties there. There must have been some stiff opposition to Timothy, and that would have caused him to wish to leave. There were probably those at Ephesus that wanted him to leave and made no bones about it. Still others were concerned about his youth and lack of experience and most likely made those concerns known. Yet Paul had faith that Timothy could handle the situation and he wrote the two letters to Timothy to both encourage him and to help him be successful in his mission. If tradition is correct, and it probably is, then Timothy did stick it out and shepherded that church for many years until his martyrdom c. 80 AD. Armed with this knowledge let us begin our study.
Let us begin with verse eleven:
1Ti 2:11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
We must first understand the words in this statement, beginning with silence. It is from the word ησυχια, hesuchia (Strong’s 2271-lemma form), which also comes from the word ησυχιος, hesuchios (Strong’s 2272-lemma form). If we use a quality Greek lexicon, we find that the meaning of this word is not simply silence. The connotation of most translations of the word is that women are never allowed to talk in church. Nonsense. The Bauer Danker (BDAG) “Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature” has this to say about the word, hesuchia: a state of quietness without disturbance, quietness, rest; without any fanfare; without experiencing disturbance; harmonious peace among citizens. Gingrich renders it “orderliness.” Other possibilities include stillness, tranquility, quietness, be at ease, descriptive of the life of one who stays at home doing his own work, and does not officiously meddle with the affairs of others, reverence, devotion and respect. Therefore the word does connote a total lack of speech.
Its parent, hesuchios, used in I Tim 2:2, and rendered peaceable there, can be rendered quiet, well ordered, inward calm, rest, peaceful, and quiet disposition. I give all of these possibilities here to show that this does not mean “sit down and shut up!” It indicated that women (and men as well) are to attend church meetings in an orderly and peaceful way that promotes harmony among all attendees.
Subjection is rendered from the uninflected Greek word, υποταγη, hupotage, (Strong’s 5292). This word literally means subordination. That does not mean submitting to a slave master as a slave. It means to be subordinate to established authority. Military men and women understand subordination to authority. When a colonel orders a sergeant to accomplish a task, the sergeant is subordinate to the colonel; the colonel outranks the sergeant. This is the object of this verse. Women (and men, by the way) are to be in subjection to those who have spiritual authority in the church. God holds those authorities responsible for taking the church in the right direction regarding spiritual matters like doctrine and the correct teaching of the word. Those men are not superior to others in the church nor are they inferior. Submission to them does not mean we are their slaves or that they are our masters. When a woman is in subjection to those with spiritual authority in the church, she is no way inferior. Gal 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” We Christians are all one in Christ—men, women, slaves, different races, different political ideas, etc.—we are all one in Christ. These verses in no way indicate that women are somehow less than men. No way; we are all the same in God’s eyes. Now that we understand this concept, let us go on to the verse on which the study is based.
1Ti 2:12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
It may not be politically correct, but the strength of this statement leaves no uncertainty. Based on the words we studied above, we must accept that scripture does not allow a woman to teach a man or have authority over him. The question is when and where does this apply? It is evident from 1 Tim 2:8 that this applies to places of worship, for prayer and lifting up holy hands is worship. The implication is that in every place where men pray and worship they are to do so without anger and argument. In fact some translations put it this way, that in every place of worship men are to worship without wrath and disputing. Authority over a man in the place of worship is the crux. If a woman cannot have authority over a man in church, then she should not teach men. Teaching implies authority. The one imparting knowledge is in authority and the one receiving that knowledge is subordinate to the one teaching. Additionally, just as men are to worship without wrath and disputing, so are women. They are both to worship peacefully without disturbance or fanfare. Women may, however, teach other women and they may teach children.
Let me add that it is acceptable to get excited when the Holy Spirit urges you to do so. But, just like in a football game, the fans get excited and yell for their team but they do so in an orderly manner. If they get rowdy they will be ejected from the stadium. In a like manner, when the spirit of worship comes upon us we should worship in an orderly manner. Singing, praying, crying, raising hands, etc. are acceptable if done in an orderly manner.
In 1 Co 14:34-35, Paul wrote, “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” He is also stating there that women should not prophesy, or preach, or teach the word. In Synagogue meetings a member of the congregation was often asked to read scripture and comment on it (Luke 4:16-17). Women were not allowed to do this. In fact, Paul said that women should ask questions about such things with their husbands at home. Paul made this statement in the context of men prophesying, speaking in tongues, and public speaking in churches. Presumably doing these things would give a woman authority over a man, which is not allowed in church.
The truth of the matter is that when in a modern church service, men and women sit peacefully without making a scene during preaching and exhortation. Both men and women are allowed to sing, praise, pray and worship vocally. But this is to be done in an orderly fashion. Agreement with the speaker by saying “Amen!” or some such thing out loud is acceptable as long as no commotion ensues. I understand that during periods of revival, commotion often occurs. There is no problem when the Holy Spirit inspires it.
Now we should realize that this applies to spiritual matters or church matters. They do not necessarily apply to public or political matters. Even in the Bible, there is an example of a woman in a position of political authority over men—the judge named Deborah. She judged Israel, which means she had authority over all who came to her for judgment, which would have included men. This was a political and not a spiritual position. Deborah was the political leader of Israel at the time. She had political authority over men as we can see when she called up the reserves, so to speak, in Judges 4:6.
A woman may have authority over a man in business or government, or any other matters outside the areas of authority in the church or having authority over her husband. The Scripture tells us that she must not do those two things. A woman CEO may have authority over men who work for her. Even if she is a Christian and he is a Christian, if she is his employer, she may have authority over him in his employment. There is no prohibition against a woman legislator, premier, prime minister, president or any other head of state. In those positions they may have authority over men. But a female leader who is a Christian and is married to a Christian may not have authority in spiritual matters over her husband, even though she may be the most powerful person in the world (an example is President of the USA). A woman judge also has authority over men in her purview. But even her authority does not extend over her husband or over leaders in her church. Of course if one of those leaders comes in her courtroom, there she has authority over him in judicial matters.
Women may have authority over men in areas outside their families and their church. But in spiritual matters, a woman may never have authority over men. I am sorry if you disagree, but since I am quoting the Bible, your disagreement is not with me, but with God, the Author of the Bible. See Genesis 2:7, 2:22, 1 Corinthians 11:8, Ephesians 2:13, 5:22.