I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man …


1 Timothy 2:12-15
12     I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.
13     For Adam was formed first, then Eve.
14     And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.
15     But women will be saved through childbearing– if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

I have been studying this and related passages for a number of weeks now, and am preparing to present a lesson this Sunday at Lake Merced Church of Christ covering 1 Timothy 2:12-15.

Before me lies a stack of books on my desk that I have already read articulating various positions, and today will be spent wrapping up my reading of Piper & Grudem’s Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood.

The 1 Timothy passage and related scriptures have presented me with the most challenging exegetical work I have engaged in thus far in my young career. After an honest and careful study, the answers emerging regarding: 1) the problem Paul is addressing in this text, 2) what the text actually says in the original language, and 3) proper present-day application of it are quite different from the answers I would have provided before seriously studying.

I’ll get into that more later, but would like to toss this out to you in the meantime:

How do you handle this text? Any idea what the problem is Paul is addressing? What’s the underlying, trans-cultural principle put forth? How do we apply it today?

Back to the books for me – more later.


21 thoughts on “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man …

  1. Daniel says:

    Just a few thoughts on this one. My first thought is that this is one of the most controversial passages in the NT and should be passed over at all costs….but that would be wrong.

    1) Woman and wife are the same word in Greek, as are man and husband. Could he be talking about wives not taking authority over their husbands? Kinda makes the childbearing part make a little more sense.

    2) I still don’t really understand his appeal to the order of creation. This is the same writer who says that there is neither male nor female because we are all one in Christ.

    3) I wonder if this is more a command about men than it is about women. He says the woman was deceived first and became a sinner. But it was the man’s responsibility to relate God’s command to his wife. Then Eve turned around and gave the fruit to Adam. That’s two strikes against Adam’s leadership as a man and a husband.

    4) Even if this is more about what women can and cannot do, I think we have a tendency to take it to an extreme. Since when did serving a meal (i.e. the Lord’s supper) become a role of authority?

    • WesWoodell says:

      Daniel – translating the passage using “wife” and “husband” makes sense on the surface, but the cases used seem to indicate Paul meant the readers to understand “woman” and “man.” I need to do a bit more digging on this and will likely present it as a possibility, but am not sure that is the best translation (particularly in the preceding verses).

      You are correct in that Paul makes a bold statement in Galatians 3:28, but he makes the same appeal to creation at the beginning of 1 Corinthians 11 emphasizing the headship of man over woman. Some believe Paul’s use of the word “head” in that passage should be understood to mean “source”, but if that’s the case that passage of Scripture would also be saying God the Father is the “source” of Jesus Christ (i.e. Jesus is a created being). I don’t believe that’s what Paul meant.

      • Daniel says:

        Okay, so I have a few other thoughts that I would like input on.

        -The end of verse 12 says that women should remain “quiet.” This is the same word Paul uses earlier in the chapter (vs. 2) in accordance to the way men should live their lives. Does he really mean that men should live in silence? Or are we to understand that word in terms of humility, meekness, and peacefulness?

        -The “parallel passage,” if you will, in 1 Corinthians 14 is often used in conjunction with this passage. However, there are TONS of instructions given in 1 Cor. 14 that we just ignore altogether. Why single out the part about women and exclude the rest?

        -Also, why would Paul command against the very thing for which he gave instructions just a couple chapters earlier. In ch. 11 he commands all the women (or wives) who pray and prophesy to cover their heads. Why, then, would he seemingly turn right around and tell them to remain silent?

        I hope I’m not sounding argumentative at all, and I definitely don’t want to sound heretical to my fellow c-of-C-ers out there. These are just questions that I have NEVER had answered…

      • WesWoodell says:

        I dealt with 1 Corinthians 14 in part one of this lesson on women in the church. I believe we have traditionally misunderstood that passage, and will post my findings soon. It was relatively easy to deal with compared to 1 Timothy 2.

        As for your observation regarding the word translated “quiet”, the adjective form is used in verse 2 – the noun form in verse 11 and 12. The noun form indicates quietness, stillness, and tranquility. Peacefulness seems to be implied.

      • K. Rex Butts says:

        “Some believe Paul’s use of the word “head” in that passage should be understood to mean “source”, but if that’s the case that passage of Scripture would also be saying God the Father is the “source” of Jesus Christ (i.e. Jesus is a created being).”

        Not necessarily so. The greek word “telos” can be translated as end, goal, or perfect. The context of the word would depend on how we understand the word. The same is true with “kephale”…it can be understood more in terms of “source” in one place and “head” in another.

  2. I don’t preach, but I haven’t been fired from my church yet for writing this blog post about five years ago: http://keithbrenton.com/2006/08/31/worship-gifts-and-women/ .

    • WesWoodell says:

      Keith – what you posted regarded the nature of the Ephesian heresy is a theory originally presented by the husband and wife team of Richard and Catherine Kroeger.

      The weakness is that argument is that the sources used to provide the information originated in the fourth century. It could very well be that was the nature of the heresy in Paul’s day, and it does make sense. The problem is we simply do not know for sure – the source is several hundred years removed from the time of Paul’s writing.

  3. Charlie Sohm says:

    Not to minimize the importance of taking all of Scripture seriously, I honestly think our discussions on any topic should start and end with Jesus’ call to spreading faith and good works. Issues that Jesus himself either didn’t harp on, sidestepped, or didn’t mention at all should not be made or allowed to define who we are as his followers.

    If it’s not obvious to us how this issue is central to Jesus’ ministry, we owe it to him, ourselves and the world we are called to redeem to treat it accordingly.

    • WesWoodell says:

      Jesus’ actions in accepting women as full learners and disciples under his Rabbinical leadership was revolutionary in breaking cultural norms, particularly in the book of Luke. Many would argue women did play a central role in the ministry of Jesus … after all, it was a group of “prominent women” who supported His ministry financially. What’s more, women played a large role in the ministry life of the early church. Paul’s writing in Romans 16 indicates this, as do other passages of the New Testament. I know lots of women who take their faith and service very seriously (as do you), and as disciples of Christ want very much to know how they fit in to the grand-scheme of His redemptive work on earth.

  4. Gerald D Franks says:

    I don’t envy your position, and I would love to hear what conclusions you reach. The only thought I would contribute is that the topic provides a level of “holy tension” for me. From a worldly / natural view, experiences in American society provide many examples of female leadership that are undeniable, so if left to my own reasoning I would tend to think that it’s okay for women to take on leadership in the church as well, but I can’t deny how strongly this passage and others spell things out differently. Again, my conclusions are hard fast at this point, but there is definitely a tension between what I think / what I would surmise what Scripture says. I have no doubt that our fellowship had used this passage in an unnecessarily restrictive sense (like there’s a problem with women passing the communion emblems out, well they can pass them — just side to side, not front to back), but I also have no doubt that Scripture definitely points us in a direction completely different than my own natural thinking.

    From a psychological / sociological perspective, I could write pages about the emasculation of the American male (which go completely counter to the liberal thinking in my university setting, yeah, liberal in the south, but it’s on campus, not the general public, and in the education school, not the rest of the university), but I’m officially on Spring break, so that previous paragraph will have to suffice. 🙂 Seriously, let me know how it goes.

  5. I would love to see your bibliography (and your conclusions)!

  6. Ed Healy says:

    Will you be posting an audio recording of your lesson?

  7. Jim Woodell says:

    Good stuff Wes. “Iron sharpens iron.” As you know the word “silent” in 1 Cor. 14 and the word “silent” in 1 Tim. 2 are different words in the Greek. 1 Cor. 14 meaning absolutely mute, while 1 Tim. 2 is tranquil and peaceful. So women can sing, ask questions, teach (Priscilla, Acts 18)and serve. I will leave it to you to fill in all the blanks and provide scriptural application of these principles. Unleashing women in the 21st Century will likely do more to advance the good works of Christ and the message of the gospel than most anything that can be done.

  8. K. Rex Butts says:

    One of the questions I have about the text of 1 Timothy and specifically 2.12 is the difference in the verbs “teach” and “preach.” The Apostle Paul is familiar with both words as well as the word “prophesy” (something Paul believes both men and women have the gift of doing in the assembly…cf. 1 Cor 11). There seems to be some overlap between the functions of preaching and prophesying but I’m not sure how much. So was the prohibition in 2.12 a prohibition on teaching only or did the prohibition on teaching include preaching?

    Grace and Peace,


  9. Corpus Kyle says:

    You wonder how we got away with Gods Fight Club…How are you getting away with the Back to the Kitchen graphic!? LOL

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