Does Paul Forbid Women From All Teaching In 1 Timothy 2:11-12?

It is written:

“Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” (1 Timothy 2:12)

Does Paul here forbid women from all teaching of God’s Word?

Let’s study.

First, that Paul is clear that he is not forbidding women in the church from ALL teaching is made clear by his other writings (here and elsewhere).

For example, Paul exhorted the older women to teach the younger women (Titus 2:3-4). This was in harmony with his example in commending Priscilla who, with her husband, taught the Word of God more accurately to Apollos (Acts 18:24-26).

Paul also reminded the Corinthians that there were women in the church assembly who were praying and prophesying publicly (1 Corinthians 11:5). Indeed, Paul goes on to point out in 1 Corinthians 11 that the problem at Corinth was not with the women praying or prophesying in the assembly of the church, but with the women there praying and prophesying with their heads uncovered (which in that day and age could suggest a woman who was involved in prostitution as part of the Aphrodite cult in that city).

Other examples could be cited, but these are sufficient to show that Paul was not forbidding women in the church from all teaching. Far from it!

Second, Paul explains that the teaching he is forbidding is the kind which would cause a woman to “have authority over a man.” The Greek word used here is auhenteto, and has the following meaning in Greek:

“Paul’s word in 1 Timothy 2:12, authĕntĕ ō , is not used any other time in all of Scripture 286 and is used infrequently in ancient Greek literature outside the Bible. Neither is there an extensive number of usages in extra-biblical ancient Greek literature. Most scholars are in agreement that the word is rare and that in extra-biblical literature it is most often used with an undeniably negative meaning. Unless Paul intended a negative meaning for authĕntĕ ō , it is difficult to conceive what would motivate him to bypass the common and positive (or neutral) words that he used a number of times elsewhere in his letters and instead chose a rare word that clearly had a negative, even violent or criminal meaning in many if not most of its uses. It seems that the obvious conclusion is that Paul made an intentional choice so that his words would be understood as restricting women from commandeering an unhealthy kind of authority rather than restricting them from being commissioned for any authoritative role in the church….“A lexicon is a catalog of words and their meanings, similar to a dictionary. Hubner cites eight standard Greek lexicons most of which convey the meaning of authĕntĕ ō as referring to autocratic, domineering authority. These lexicons designate the meaning of authĕntĕ ō as follows: “to assume a stance of independent authority, to give orders to, to dictate to;” “of one who acts on his own authority; hence have control over, domineer, Lord it over;” to “control, have authority over;” to “domineer, have authority over;” “to have full power over;” “dominate;” “domineer over.” 287 The Greek-English Lexicon, which focuses on the contextual aspect of words, likewise represents the meaning of authĕntĕ ō as “to control in a domineering manner . . . [example from 1 Tim. 2:12] ‘I do not allow women . . . to dominate men’ . . . ‘To control in a domineering manner’ is often expressed idiomatically, for example, ‘to shout orders at,’ ‘to act like a chief toward,’ or ‘to bark at.’” 288 Further, lexical usages indicate that inherent to the meaning of authĕntĕ ō is that it refers to authority which is self-appointed or even commandeered, rather than commissioned, granted, or assigned appropriately. Clearly those lexical definitions at the very minimum indicate that the pejorative understanding of authĕntĕ ō in 1 Timothy 2:12 is a strong possibility, but more likely, that its normal meaning is derogatory…“I attempted to read translations and/or the original Greek of nearly all of the most relevant extra-biblical uses of authĕntĕ ō in their original contexts. At risk of failing to recognize my own biases, from my own examination of those extra-biblical uses at a time when I was not yet settled on either position, it appeared to me that this party line division is very much out of sync with the preponderance of evidence clearly supporting a negative meaning for authĕntĕ ō . It appears to me that unless one is determined to force the evidence to fit a complementarian understanding, it obviously supports the conclusion that authĕntĕ ō is primarily about domineering and abusive authority.” (Dr. Bill Rudd, Should Women Be Pastors and Leaders in Church?: My Journey to Discover What the Bible Says About Gender Roles, 5438-5492 (Kindle Edition); Bloomington, IN; WestBow Press)

Paul is not forbidding women from all teaching; instead, he is prohibiting a specific type of teaching in which a woman would domineer over a man.

Third, why would Paul need to address such a situation with the women at Ephesus, where Timothy was located (1 Timothy 1:1-3)?

We find a clue in Paul’s statement regarding the dress of these women:

1 Timothy 2:9-in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing,

By using this terminology, the Apostle was connecting his point to the rise of an extremely feminist program in that day and age, known as “the new women” movement. This was especially popular among those in the Artemis cult located in Ephesus (where Paul’s Epistle to Timothy is directed):

“The identity of the Christian believer does not depend upon fancy dress or conspicuous consumption. “Simple garb and adornment is more fitting for a woman than a wagonload of pearls” (Luther, p. 273). One local factor may have influenced Paul’s language. It is known that there was a raunchy temple of Artemis at Ephesus where men had visited temple prostitutes from time immemorial. It is uncertain as to whether Paul might have been deliberately comparing the lifestyle of some Christian women of Ephesus with those of the Artemis cult. In any event solid internal evidence in the letter itself indicates that false teachers of Ephesus were finding a hearing among a few vulnerable women, “burdened with sins and swayed by various impulses,” who with these spiritual directors “would never arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (II 3: 6–7).” (Thomas C. Oden, First and Second Timothy and Titus: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, 94-95 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, Kentucky; Westminster John Knox Press)

These followers of Artemis held highly feminist views, including the belief that in the Creation women were created first (which helps us understand why Paul makes the point in 1 Timothy 2:13 that Adam was formed first, and then Eve). This Artemis cult was very widespread, and emphasized as one of their chief doctrines that women were superior to men:

“An early Amazon queen, Lysippe, decreed that women should go forth to battle and govern while the men were to stay at home and do the household work. “To the men she assigned the spinning of wool and the household tasks of women. She introduced laws by which she led forth the women to battle, but she hung humiliation and servitude upon the men.”[ 1] Her daughter succeeded her as queen and both established the worship of Artemis Tauropolus and built temples to her.[ 2] A later queen, Hippo, brought the image of the Tauropolian Artemis to Ephesus, set it in an oak tree, and instituted the cult. Attendants of this Amazon queen danced at the shrine of Artemis of Ephesus first with shields and later with rattling quivers….The Amazons were famed for their military prowess, their hostility to males, and the dominance which they exerted over men.[4] In the lands of Asia Minor which they had conquered, the tradition of the rule of female over male continued at least as a fiction if not a reality….“Those women most closely connected to the Ephesian Artemis, the Lydians, were also said to dominate their menfolk.[ 14] “The[ ir] men are subject to female domination…In rites of Hercules at other locations, sex reversal is well established, especially the assuming of female garb on the part of the priests. At Tarsus his priests donned purple robes reminiscent of Omphale. Their behavior appears to indicate cult actions of sex reversal involving clothing exchange and submission to a female figure. Paul, a native of Tarsus, surely could not have been unaware of the tradition.” (Richard Clark Kroeger & Catherine Clark Kroeger, I Suffer Not a Woman: Rethinking I Timothy 2:11-15 In Light of Ancient Evidence, 193-195 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Academic)

Finally, any prohibition on women teaching is shown from the text to be temporary, until the women were better trained in the Word of God.

“A more important reason Paul may not have wanted these women to teach is that much of the false teaching in Ephesus was being spread through women in the congregation. This is not to say that women are more prone to lead others astray than men—the false teachers themselves seem to have been men. But in that culture the uneducated women seem to have provided the network the false teachers could use to spread their falsehoods through the congregations (1 Tim. 5: 13; 2 Tim. 3: 6–7). This is probably because the women were not as well learned in the Scriptures as men were, as we pointed out in the preceding chapter. Presumably, Paul wants them to learn so that they could teach.[ 94] If he prohibits women from teaching because they are unlearned, his demand that they learn constitutes a long-range solution to the problem. Women unlearned in the Bible could not be trusted to pass on its teachings accurately, but once they had learned, this would not be an issue, and they could join the ranks of women colleagues in ministry whom Paul elsewhere commends.” (Craig S. Keener, Paul, Women, and Wives: Marriage And Women’s Ministry In The Letters Of Paul, 2112-2118 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Academic)

Women are some of the greatest gifts to the Lord’s church.

May He bless them, and may we always be aware of their value.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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