Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

Why 1 Timothy 2:12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34 are not timeless regulations: epitrepo

I do not believe 1 Corinthians 14:34 is a universal injunction designed to permanently silence women in church gatherings. I also do not believe the intention of 1 Timothy 2:12 was to prohibit every woman from teaching any man for all time. One reason for my (dis)belief is because of a particular word found in both verses: epitrepō.

Epitrepō is consistently used in the Greek New Testament in the context of giving, or asking for, permission by making an exception or a temporary allowance, limited in scope. It is also used in the context of withholding permission in an ad hoc, or specific and limited, situation. You can check this for yourself. Here is every New Testament verse that contains the verb epitrepō. (I’ve used the NASB 1995 for these verses.)

Matthew 8:21: . . . “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.”
A disciple makes this request for a one-off allowance. But Jesus does not give permission and responds to the request with, “Follow me and let the dead bury their own dead” (Matt. 8:22).

Matthew 19:8: [Jesus] said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.”
Divorce is permitted as an exception but is not the ideal or the norm.

Mark 5:13: Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine . . .
The demons, or unclean spirits, had begged Jesus not to send them out of the country, which may have been a more usual practice in exorcisms. The demons asked instead that they be sent into the swine. Jesus granted this permission as a one-off.

Mark 10:4: [The Pharisees] said, “Moses permitted [a man] to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”
As in Matthew 19:8, Moses’ permission was a concession; it is not the ideal. So Jesus counters the Pharisees’ statement with “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Mark 10:9 cf. Mark 10:5-8).

Luke 8:32: . . . [the demons] implored Him to permit them to enter the swine. And He gave them permission to enter.
See note for Mark 5:13.

Luke 9:59: . . . “Lord, permit me first to bury my father.”
See note for Matthew 8:21.

Luke 9:61: Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.”
Another would-be disciple asks Jesus for a temporary allowance, one which Jesus does not approve. Jesus is not allowing an exception from his overarching call of “Follow me . . . and don’t look back.”

John 19:38:  . . . Joseph of Arimathea . . .  asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission.
Pilate’s permission was a one-time allowance for a specific request.

Acts 21:39-40: But Paul said, “. . . I beg you, allow me to speak to the people.” When he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the stairs, motioned to the people with his hand; and when there was a great hush, he spoke to them in the Hebrew dialect . . .”
As with the other occurrences of epitrepō, Paul’s request, and the permission he receives, is for an action very much limited in duration and location.

Acts 26:1: Agrippa said to Paul, “You are permitted to speak for yourself.”
Paul is permitted to speak at a particular moment during the hearing. Herod Agrippa is not giving Paul broad permission to speak at any time.

Acts 27:3: . . Julius treated Paul with consideration and allowed him to go to his friends and receive care.
Julius kindly allowed this as a concession.

Acts 28:16: When we entered Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him.
Paul is given special treatment and is permitted to stay in his own accommodation rather than in prison like most other prisoners.

1 Corinthians 14:34: The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves . . .
Earlier in 1 Corinthians, Paul acknowledged that women pray and prophesy aloud in church meetings and he doesn’t silence them (1 Cor. 11:5; cf. 1 Cor. 14:26 CSB). So Paul’s call for silence in 14:34 cannot be about a complete, universal and lasting silence from all women. Rather he is referring to a specific kind of speech in a specific situation.

1 Corinthians 16:7-8: For I do not wish to see you now just in passing; for I hope to remain with you for some time, if the Lord permits. But I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost . . .
As an itinerant preacher, Paul was hoping for divine permission for a particular visit.

1 Timothy 2:12: But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man . . .
With the other occurrences of the word epitrepō as a guide to its meaning, Paul’s lack of permission in this instance is related to a limited and specific situation, rather than a universal situation. This one verse must not be used to overturn or nullify Paul’s previous teaching on ministry, which he gives without respect to gender.

Hebrews 6:3: And this we will do, if God permits.
In Hebrew 6 we learn of some immature beliefs that were somewhat unique to the recipients of the letter to the Hebrews. With God’s permission, these particular Christians will progress and mature in their beliefs.

From these verses we can see that the word epitrepō is commonly used in contexts of localised situations, exceptions, and concessions, rather than contexts of universal norms and regulations. Accordingly, Andrew Perriman notes that the use of epitrepō in the New Testament “is in every case related to a specific and limited set of circumstances . . .”[1]

Paul’s use of epitrepō in 1 Timothy 2:12 is especially marked when compared with the language he uses elsewhere in First Timothy, including, for example, 1 Timothy 6:17: “As for the rich in this present age, charge (or, direct) them not to be haughty . . .” Paul uses this word (verb: paraggellō and noun: paraggelia) seven times in 1 Timothy (1 Tim. 1:3, 5; 4:11; 5:7; 6:13, 17, 18, NIV). But there is no such word or force in 1 Timothy 2:12 in the Greek. Furthermore, Paul does not directly tell or command Timothy, or a woman, what to do. Rather, he informs Timothy, “I am not allowing . . .”[2]

The Greek word epitrepō was not the word typically used when making broad and definitive statements or universal injunctions. This is one reason why I believe the restrictions in 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:12 were ad hoc stipulations addressing local problems.[3] And so, these verses should not be used to deny the speaking ministries of godly, gifted women.[4]


[1] Andrew C. Perriman, “What Eve Did, What Women Shouldn’t Do: The Meaning of Authenteō in 1 Timothy 2:12,″ Tyndale Bulletin 44.1 (1993): 130.
Philip B. Payne writes, “the verb ‘to permit’ (ἐπιτρέπω) never refers to a universal or permanent situation in any of its uses in the LXX or NT.” Payne, Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), 395.
Here are the verses in the Septuagint (LXX) that contain epitrepō (ἐπιτρέπω). All but the last verse, 4 Maccabees 5:26, are clearly about allowing a specific situation of limited duration.
Genesis 39:6: καὶ ἐπέτρεψεν πάντα ὅσα ἦν αὐτῷ εἰς χεῗρας Ιωσηφ …: And [Potiphar] allowed everything, all that was his, to be in the hands of Joseph …
Esther 9:14: καὶ ἐπέτρεψεν οὕτως γενέσθαι καὶ ἐξέθηκε τοῗς Ιουδαίοις τῆς πόλεως τὰ σώματα τῶν υἱῶν Αμαν κρεμάσαι: And [Artaxerxes] allowed it to be this way and he declared to the Jews of the city that the bodies of the sons of Haman were to be hung.
Job 32:14: ἀνθρώπῳ δὲ ἐπετρέψατε λαλῆσαι τοιαῦτα ῥήματα: And you allowed a person to say such things.
Wisdom 19:2: ὅτι αὐτοὶ ἐπιτρέψαντες τοῦ ἀπιέναι καὶ μετὰ σπουδῆς προπέμψαντες αὐτοὺς διώξουσιν μεταμεληθέντες: that after they were allowed to leave and were sent away quickly, they would pursue them, having changed their minds.
1 Maccabees 15:6: καὶ ἐπέτρεψά σοι ποιῆσαι κόμμα ἴδιον νόμισμα τῇ χώρᾳ σου: And I allowed you to mint your own coins for use in your country
4 Maccabees 4:18: ὁ δὲ ἐπέτρεψεν αὐτῷ καὶ ἀρχιερᾶσθαι καὶ τοῦ ἔθνους ἀφηγεῖσθαι: And he allowed him [Jason] both the high priesthood and the rule of the nation.
4 Maccabees 5:26: τὰ μὲν οἰκειωθησόμενα ἡμῶν ταῖς ψυχαῖς ἐπέτρεψεν ἐσθίειν τὰ δὲ ἐναντιωθησόμενα ἐκώλυσεν σαρκοφαγεῖν: The things (food) that are suitable for our lives, he allowed us to eat, but the things that are repulsive he has forbidden us to eat.

[2] Paul could have told Timothy directly, “Forbid women from teaching” or “Women must not teach,” but he speaks indirectly. Walter L. Liefeld further notes, “. . . the Holy Spirit could have led Paul to use an imperative construction that might be interpreted as binding the church to follow that practice [of not allowing a woman to teach, etc] for all time . . . ” Liefeld, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (The NIV Application Commentary; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 98.
Rather, Paul’s statement (“I am not permitting . . .”) carries no imperatival sense.

[3] I. Howard Marshall concludes that the prohibition in 1 Timothy 2:12 “is in fact meant for a specific group of women among the recipients of the letter.” The Pastoral Epistles (International Critical Commentary; London: T & T Clark, 2004), 455. I wonder, however, if 1 Timothy 2:11-15 involves a particular couple, a wife and husband, in the Ephesian church. I’ve written about this here and here.

[4] In his general teaching on ministry, Paul gives no indication whatsoever that vocal ministries, including teaching, are only for men. See Romans 12:6-7, 1 Corinthians 12 (including 1 Cor. 12:28), Ephesians 4:11ff, as well as 1 Corinthians 14:26 and Colossians 3:16.

Explore more

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 in a Nutshell
Interpretations and Applications of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35
All my articles on 1 Timothy 2:12 are here.
Questions about how to Implement 1 Timothy 2:12 
Jesus’s Teaching on Divorce and Remarriage
Prominent Biblical Scholars on Women in Ministry
The Means of Ministry: Gifts, Grace, Faith . . . Gender?

artigos em portugues sobre igualdade entre homens e mulheres no lar e na igreja

40 thoughts on “Why 1 Tim. 2:12 and 1 Cor. 14:34 are not universal regulations

  1. Interesting argument but I wonder what word do you think would have been appropriate if it was intended to make a ruling that applies for all time?

    1. Paul usually just says something a long the lines of, “This is that way it is.” He also uses lists of good behaviours and ministries, as well as lists of vices to be avoided. Occasionally he gives instructions and directives directly: “do this” or “don’t do that”.

      Several times he says something like, “I urge/exhort you to do …” Or “I want/wish you to do …” Some of his instructions and advice can be indirect (e.g. some verses in 1 Corinthians 7).

      Apart from the use of the word epitrepō, there are usually also other indications in the text which tell us whether biblical writers are conveying timeless principles or giving local, ad hoc advice and instructions. But to answer your question properly would take a lengthy essay which still wouldn’t satisfy most Christians or take into account every Bible verse.

      1. My way out: 1 Cor 14:34 (and 35) is not by Paul but is a later interpolation. The interpolation helped bring Paul’s thinking up [or down] to the thinking about women in the later era of ! Tim.
        This close to Christmas, I don’t have time to produce arguments. But see, e.g., the (…) used in NRSV and its note to the same effect.
        In addition, I do not consider 1 Tim to be an authentic letter of Paul’s: this is a standard view.
        I recognise that many do not like the idea of ‘interpolations’ and ‘pseudo’ letters – thinking that such manipulative arrangements are incompatible with the sacred nature of the text.

        1. Even if the Pastoral Letters, including First Timothy, were not written by Paul, they are considered as sacred texts by practically all Christians.

          I’m undecided if 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 are Paul’s own words (see here) or if they are the words of the Corinthians which Paul quotes and then rebukes in 13:36 (as per Odell-Scott).

          1. Yes, of course, Marg. I meant to add to my brief comment on 1 Tim that, in my view, the document (with its restrictive comments on women’s role in the community) originated at a later period than Paul’s life when Christians had already attracted hostile attention from imperial authorities and seemingly decided not to parade women any more as holding public roles in the Christian sect and thus attract further hostile comment or retribution from the public as well as from the authorities.

    2. Psalm 68:11 (ASV) ” The Lord giveth the word: The women that publish the tidings ARE a great host.”

      Now that is a good verse for all time. But I guess you could say, on reading this, that the Lord gives the word, but ironically specifically leaves out “men” regarding publishing His tidings. Was this intended for all time do you think? Have men usurped God’s choice of women? ☺

      How desperately tragic that when the word of the Lord offers salvation and good news to all mankind some allow their ambition to keep them more concerned with silencing women on the matter than that souls should be told of the Heart of God for their eternal condition! This kind of ‘PUTTING ON THE BRAKES’ from certain kinds of men makes me want to spit and wonder at the kind of human heart that is more concerned with hiding God’s word rather than letting a female foot in the door!…sorry Rob…why is it so important to try to find loopholes that keep women down and not for one time but “FOR ALL TIME” as you seem to be asking?

      How about a word from Jesus to begin with on the matter? Why is it always Paul? Is it because Paul’s ” epistles,…in which are some things hard to be understood, (enable) them that are unlearned and unstable (to)wrest (his words)…unto their own destruction?” Would you like to contend with Jesus’ choice of women as well, like the Samaritan woman and Mary Magdalene, two of several he CHOSE to proclaim His word?…We would have to contend with the choice of Hannah and Mary as well as others, whose words are recorded in the Bible.

      Oh but there are scriptures on silence that apply to all time, Rob: “Be silent , O ALL flesh, before the LORD: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation.” and this: ” the LORD is in his holy temple: let ALL the earth keep silence before him.”

      On the opposite drift we find:”Oh clap your hands, ALL ye peoples; Shout unto God with the voice of triumph.”

      Which is it then…?

      Silencing people is very destructive :” When I kept silence , my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.”

      Interestingly, Philip Payne says most early church fathers were unaware of the existence of “1 Cor 14:34-5” and that there is some doubt as to the authenticity of this portion.

      1 Cor 7 – end is a reply from Paul to numerous questions, beginning with 1 Cor 7:1…if Chptr 14,vs 34-35 is authentic I suggest it is a reply to a questions such as this from the Judaizers. After all in a mixed religious community (pagan etc.) this comment from Paul makes no logical sense at all (asking their husbands at home). This alone makes it hard to believe Paul actually wrote it.

      But in the end the Bible teaches women to speak out and records that they always have spoken out and that God approved…and those who did are recorded by God…Hannah, Deborah, Huldah, Mary, etc. Yes God shows that He has no desire for women to be silent but to show forth the praise of His name…and to be fierce warriors for the Kingdom (chayil Prov 31)…so it really doesn’t matter to God’s women, whom He has called, whether or not “some men think” these verses are silencing them…they know, as they know God, that they are ‘ordained’ to speak for Him…whatever you may or may not think!

      Permission comes from God and He is the one who ‘gives the word’.

    3. Rob that is a very interesting question. Sounds like extreme counter apologetics

  2. Interesting argument. Guess Paul should have added something like “and by the way, this is not for a group of women among the recipients of the letter but it is a timeless rule for all churches…”. He may have been too busy or, perhaps, economy of words is an essential function of scripture.

    1. I don’t think Paul knew he was writing scripture when he wrote this letter to Timothy. Nevertheless he would have expected the letter to be read aloud to the Christian in Ephesus, and I have no doubt that the woman (or women) that 1 Timothy 2:11-15 applies to would have understood. Or maybe not (2 Pet. 3:15-16).

      The Greek word authentein is another hindrance to fully understanding the scope and meaning of 1 Timothy 2:12.

  3. While I agree that the two verses do not apply for all situations through all of time, your argument is not one I would make. Some of the instances you cite have permanent effects and some have very long lasting effects. It could be argued that the lack of permission in the two verses is only for the life of this world and not for the world to come. Besides which, all such arguments as you offer here are weak because they presume a universal definition from 98/100 instances and do not allow (!!!) that 2/100 instances might be reason not to presume what the universal definition is.

    1. I don’t necessarily say the effects of these permissions are not long-lasting. What I do say is that these permissions are about exceptions to the norm and/or about specific local situations.

  4. God called Huldah the prophetess to instruct Josiah the King as to His will. That alone shows the heart of God regarding women teaching and leading with His authority. That one precedent should settle it all, exception or not.

    What one man wrote on one day in a personal letter that managed to survive to this day cannot refute God’s calling on Huldah and His positioning her in authority over the King Josiah.

    This alone ensures that Paul’s instruction cannot be timeless.

    1. I agree, Judy. There are too many godly women in the Bible leading and teaching men to think that 1 Tim 2:12 represents God’s overall view on women in ministry.

      Josiah and his all-male delegation, Barak, David, King Lemuel, Apollos, and others, respected certain women and accepted their teaching and prophesies. Gender was not an issue.

      1. Yes, and Marg, why are two or three phrases out of all the teaching of Paul so much more important than all the Bible teaching put together? Paul said some things that counter them, however.

        …” Conscience , I say , not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience?”

        With Paul I say that too! and Peter concurs somewhat:”While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.” As to bondage:”Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” Where is this glorious liberty if gender rules it out? I want the full teaching of the Gospel, not some man made interpretation that ties my hands and muzzles my mouth…does it exist or not?

        I maintain with Paul:”And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage”. So what was Paul’s response to those who tried to take his liberty? He said, “To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.” Yes ladies, these who spy out our liberty in Christ we WILL GIVE PLACE BY SUBJECTION, NO NOT FOR AN HOUR; THAT THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL MIGHT CONTINUE WITH US.” The Judaizers Paul fought against have not gone away and they are a cancer to the spread of the gospel.

  5. Excellent study. Thank you.

  6. I am indebted to the Kroegers for the book “I Suffer not a Woman…” For the possible interpretation of the Greek word “authentein” as to be responsible for, as well as publishing, gnostic writings in which Eve gave life to Adam. This is not allowed to be taught! Once this is realized it is made clear that the entire passage is devoted to a denial of gnostic doctrine. This was whole reason Timothy was left in Ephesus. Apostolic authority was needed there and Paul provided it through Timothy. This understanding eliminates the contradiction of women preaching (1 Cor 11:5) and clarifies 1 Tim 2:15.

    1. Hi Bob,

      I also strongly suspect that proto-Gnostic, or syncretistic, heresies are behind Paul’s words in First Timothy. I have several posts where I address this idea.

      Adam and Eve in Ancient Gnostic Literature (cf 1 Tim 2:13-14)
      Chastity, Salvation, and 1 Timothy 2:15

  7. I’m concerned that, in light of how the word is used in other verses, that this could mean that Paul was so serious about women not doing these things that he was saying he would not even permit it as an exception to the rule? Or is this not a possibility due to how the language works?

    1. Hi Amanda, I’m not understanding everything in your comment, but I will say that the seriousness of the situations Paul is addressing in 1 Tim 2:12 and 1 Cor. 14:34 (assuming that Paul wrote them) is not in dispute. Problems can be temporary or localised and still be very serious.

      My point in this article is to show that epitrepō is commonly used “in the context of giving, or asking for, permission by making an exception or a temporary allowance, limited in scope.” And, “It is also used in the context of withholding permission in an ad hoc, or specific and limited, situation.”

      Also, 1 Timothy 2:12 is not given as an especially strong statement.

      1. I’ll try again, sorry.

        Okay, you said the word relates to giving permission in specific limited situation.

        So my question is, would the words then be saying something like “not permitted in this case…”

        Or could it mean “not permitted EVEN in this case.”. Can it be used to mean that there is no exception to a rule even in particular cases?

        For example in 1 Tim – But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man . . .

        I think you are saying it could read similar to – But I do not allow, in this instance, a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man…

        Could the use of the word also make it mean – But I do not allow, even in this instance, a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man…

        Hopefully my question makes more sense this time.


        1. Ah, I get you now. That is a valid question. But I really don’t think these verses are exceptions to any rule.

          For one thing, what Paul is prohibiting is very specific, even though many people don’t see it that way. He was prohibiting bad behaviour.

          If he was disallowing an exception, you’d expect him to disallow something that sounds good and possibly permissible, but, as I said, he disallowing bad behaviour.

          Paul pretty much tells us that the women in Corinth who needed to be silent were women who wanted to learn and were asking too many questions which they needed to keep for home.

          And all of 1 Timothy 2:8-15 contains corrections to problems that were specific to Ephesus. They are not general statements.

          There are no general statements or rules in entire the Bible that say women need to be silent. Zero. Nada.

  8. I’m sorry, but I find your argument to be lacking. Before you go and look how a specific word is used elsewhere, should you not first consider the immediate context, and all of Pauls words? A lot of people have attempted to reduce this command as a local cultural issue, but I just don’t see it in the context. First of all, it must be remembered that Timothy was a Greek, and in pagan greek culture, it was not unusual to have female priests and religious leaders. So it must be understood that Pauls command in 1 Tim 3:9-15 actually goes against the local culture.

    Secondly, nowhere in the context is it clear that this command is just for the local church there. On the contrary, the reasons Paul give in this passage gives us every reason to think it is universal. Verse 13 refers to the creation order, which means that this is how God intended the relationship between men and women, even before the fall and when we were without sin. Then verse 14 refers to the fall itself. How this links into the command is not exactly clear: It might be that women are more susceptable to the seduction of false teaching, or false doctrine is more seductive when presented by women. It is not clear from the text exactly how the command logically flows from the fall, so I don’t want to speculate about the details. But suffice to say: the text says because the woman was seduced to fall first, she is not fit for a position of authority in the church.
    Finally in verse 15, Paul again links this command to the fact that men and women were created differently to fulfill different roles, and the woman was specifically called for bringing forth children. This is interesting, because this is something men can’t do. The implication here is that: just as men do not have what it takes to bring forth children into the world, women does not have what it takes to shephard the flock.

    Paul gives 3 reasons why he raised this command, and all 3 appears to have universal implications.

    I do not see how a study of the word “permit” elsewhere in the Bible can in any way override the 3 universal reasons Paul himself gives for his command.

    1. Hello Hanno,

      I have many other articles where I consider the immediate context of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and I have a few articles where I look at the immediate context of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, some of these I wrote before this one.

      I have also looked at the broader social and religious context of ancient Ephesus here and here and here and here, etc.

      The aim of this article is narrow; it is to look at how the word epitrepō is used throughout the New Testament. It is a kind of word study. It is not an explanation of either 1 Timothy 2:11-15 or 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.

      Furthermore, I state twice in this article that Paul’s use of epitrepō is one reason why I believe the restrictions in 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:12 were ad hoc stipulations addressing local problems. But there are several other reasons also why I believe this.

      You state in your comment a few times that there are things that are not clear in 1 Timothy 2:11-15. This a fair observation. I note 6 things that are unclear in verse 12 itself, here. And yet you say, “the text says because the woman was seduced to fall first, she is not fit for a position of authority in the church.” Actually, the text says nothing whatsoever about the woman being unfit for a position of authority in the church. This is your inference.

      You can find all my article on 1 Tim. 2:11-15 here, and all my articles on 1 Cor. 14:34-35 here.

  9. Hi Margaret,
    Thank you for your work promoting equal opportunities for women in the church.
    My question is…
    “Do the restrictions that Paul seems to place on women in 1 Timothy 3, require for the sake of consistency of thought, that we read 1 Timothy 4 as Paul wanted Elders to be selected from among Men of suitable character?”
    I understand the argument that the original Greek text of 1 Timothy 4 doesn’t require that Elders be men, but doesn’t the preceding context, 1 Timothy 3 (particularly Paul’s instructions to Timothy that he doesn’t want women speaking, teaching or leading) require this reading of 1 Timothy 4 (that Paul wants men to be Elders)?”
    If not, why not?
    I would be greatly helped if there was a good answer to this question.
    (This question is from someone who is believes that women should have equal ministry opportunities in the church.)

    1. Hi Stephen,

      When you say 1 Timothy 3, do you mean 1 Timothy 2:11-15? Paul says nothing about women speaking or leading in 1 Timothy 2:11-15. But he does mention a woman who needed to learn and not teach, and not domineer a man.

      In this article, I explain why I believe 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is about a particular couple in the Ephesian Church:

      My take, overall, on 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is here:

      I do not believe that in 1 Timothy 3 Paul is necessarily wanting overseers to be selected from among men of suitable character. Rather, he may be speaking about the men who are already overseers. (This is different to the context in Titus 1.)

      And 1 Timothy 3:1ff is not just about the suitable character that is required from the overseers. It presumes that overseers have resources so that they can do the “good/noble work” (benefactions) that come with being an overseer (1 Tim. 3:1), and they have a house where they can hold church meetings (1 Tim. 3:4-5). Not all first-century men of good character had their own house, or premises, in which they could host house churches.

      Here are a couple of articles on 1 Timothy 3.

  10. Thanks for your reply,
    Yes I was referring to 1 Timothy 2 and 3; not 3 and 4.
    I have never heard of 1 Timothy 2:11-12 as referring to a particular couple before. But if the restrictions mentioned in these verses only referred to one particular couple, and not women generally in Ephesus, than it is easier to see women as being included (not excluded) when Paul gives his qualifications for Elders in 1 Timothy 3.

  11. For your argument to work, you would have to provide the other Greek word that means ‘permit’ but which doesn’t imply a temporary or abnormal situation. What is that word?

    1. Hi Peter,
      Kōlu– words often have the sense of “forbid” or ban.” Paul uses kōluō (“forbid”) in 1 Corinthians 14:39: “So then, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.”

      There are many ways in which commands and prohibitions can be expressed. When Paul really wants to emphasise an instruction, issue a command, or express a prohibition in the Pastorals he sometimes uses words from the paragg– family. And I mentioned this in the article.

      Paul also uses vice lists to express behaviours that are forbidden for Christians. Women speaking in churches or women teaching men are not included in any vice list.

      Even in English, “permit” has a sense or a nuance of a temporary allowance.

  12. The “giving, or asking for, permission” was given by God via the inspired text/writers. The authority is God’s, not mans’. It most definitely is universal since God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 11:34). What Paul taught were the Commandments of God and Paul thought the same thing and every church 4:17;7:17). It is a false assumption to think that we have the right to usurp God’s authority. Permission is always granted by a higher authority and in these verses God is the giver of permission.

    1. Hi Bracken, My point isn’t that Paul’s instructions were not inspired. I take the Bible to be inspired. My point is that the God-inspired language itself was very specific and referring to local issues in Ephesus (1 Tim. 2:12) and in Corinth (1 Cor. 14:34). See also footnote 2.

      Paul’s inspired choice of words is more emphatic in 1 Corinthians 14:39 where he uses a stronger word that means “forbid”: “So then, my brothers and sisters (Greek: adelphoi), be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid (kōluō) speaking in tongues.”

      The confusion or disorder being spoken about in 1 Corinthians 14:32 is of people, men and women, speaking and prophesying in a disorderly fashion.
      “For you can all prophesy one by one, so that everyone may learn and everyone may be encouraged. And the prophets’ spirits are subject to the prophets, since God is not a God of disorder (or confusion) but of peace.”

      Men and women could prophesy one by one.

      All of 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 is Paul addressing and correcting unruly and unedifying speech, and he silences three groups of people, not just wives who needed to keep their questions for home (1 Cor. 14:35).

      Paul does not silence orderly and edifying tongues, prophecies, or prayers from either men or women (1 Cor. 11:5). Rather, he encourages men and women to participate in church meetings. In other verses, Paul encourages men and women in more vocal ministries too, and not just speaking in tongues and prophesying (1 Cor. 14:26; Col. 3:16).

  13. I love the work that you do. Your articles and replies are always wanting me to go much further into the study of this. I feel like I am going down a rabbit hole and I have so many tabs open now that I don’t know when I will be done, but your research is great. Thank you for all of this!

  14. [Following up one thread of my previous comment in the relevant place]

    I have several issues with this line of reasoning:

    (1) The whole idea of ‘allowing’ something implies that exceptions are being made to the normal, i.e. it is a localised and specific situation. Yet the whole idea of ‘not allowing’ something implies that no exceptions are being made, i.e. that the normal case remains true. This means we have to be quite careful in letting the positive meaning of a word control our understanding of its negation. The two cases you are reinterpreting (1 Cor 14:34 & 1 Tim 2:12) are also the only cases in the New Testament where επιτρέπω is negated!

    (2) Considerations of genre also need to be made when comparing words across different contexts. With the exception of two subjunctive usages (‘if the Lord permits’), every other case ostensibly occurs within narrative contexts (rather than the discourse of the epistles). Narratives almost always involve specific situations. Can we really generalise from the way words are used in narrative contexts to the way the same words are deployed in letters of instruction so easily? [a possibly exception to this is Matt 19:8 where the conversation is about a past law of Moses. Yet here the case for specific situations is the weakest: the ‘permission to divorce’ was contained within the law, and applied in some form over a thousand years to all Israelite marriages. Yes, this was a concession, but it was hardly reduced to a single local situation. This is clearly seen by substituting the negation into this passage, which would read: “Moses ‘didn’t permit’ you to divorce your wives. ” Had this been what was written, it would be clear that point (1) applies: this would be a general prohibition applying to all marriages within Israel: the opposite of the exception is the general case. To ‘not permit’ is to support the generality.

    (3) Closely linked to the above. When comparing verbs across the New Testament (especially when the claim is that a word is only used in localised cases/contexts) the underlying verb form is also highly important. Are the usages in the narratives similar to those in the epistles? When we examine the underlying forms, we find that the two problem cases (1 Cor 14:34 & 1 Tim 2:12) are both present indicative. Every other usage within the new testament bar one is either non-indicative (requests in the imperative, or wishes in the subjunctive) or occurs in the aorist tense-form. (the exception is the reported speech of Agrippa in Acts 26:1, where he tells Paul (literally) that ‘it is permitted to you on behalf of yourself to speak’. Is this a ‘specific occasion’? Well, yes. But this is a trial context, and the impersonal ‘it’ here presumably refers to typical Roman court-room procedures (right of the accused to speak) that would similarly apply in every other case: i.e. this is a generality that is here being applied to Paul: in such situations, people like Paul are permitted to speak. Yet once again: the vast majority of cases are aorists, dealing with specific events at specific periods of time. They supply very weak support to the two cases we care about, which are both NOT aorits/nonindicative, NOT embedded within narrative, and NEGATE ἐπιτρέπω (making them highly unique to the other New Testament use cases).

    At this point it should be very clear that the usages within the broader New Testament are insufficient to ground the claim that ἐπιτρέπω is standardly localized rather than broad and definitive. We would need to examine (at least) non-narrative indicative non-aorist cases that are also negations to come to a better understanding.

    Such are few & far between but a hunt on Perseus found at least one relevant example in the broader literature (this in the imperfective, so occurring in past time but otherwise mirroring the present).

    A ‘slightly dated’ occurrence of this can be found in Plutarch’s ‘Customs of the Spartans’
    see link at http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:2008.01.0199:section=17&highlight=ou%29k%2Ce%29pe%2Ftrepon
    Here, the above criteria are promisingly met ( οὐκ ἐπέτρεπον is indicative, imperfetive (3P)).

    Babbit’s 1931 translation [on the above Perseus link] renders this passage:[[[ouk epitrepo phrase]]]

    “If anyone presumed to transgress in any way the rules of the good old music, [[[they would not permit this]]]; but even Terpander, one of the oldest and the best harp-player of his time as well as a devoted admirer of the deeds of heroes, the Ephors none the less fined, and carried away his instrument and nailed it to a wall because he put in just one extra string for the sake of the variety in the notes; for they approved only the simpler melodies. Moreover, when Timotheus was competing at the Carneian Festival, one of the Ephors took a knife, and asked him on which side he should cut out the superfluous strings beyond the usual seven.”

    Here we have a norm (the rules of the old music) and a refusal to make exceptions to the norm (they would not permit this). Indeed, the entire point of the passage is to emphasize how universal and binding this norm was, and how little exceptions would be allowed. Not even the best harp-player of the time was exempt from the rules. It was ‘not permitted’ to him to deviate from them, regardless of his skill or position.

    Taken together, all of the above suggests to me that the phrase οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω, while still being open to shades of interpretation from its local context, in isolation should be seen as supporting, rather than undermining, the idea that Paul’s prohibition was general. (note also that this passage has them ‘not permitting’ ‘anyone’ (a singular) General prohibitions can be described as applying to individuals.

    1. Hello again, Mojay.

      (1) Not allowing something, or withholding permission, can also be given in localised, specific situations. And I’m very much aware of the negation of permission in 1 Cor. 14:34 and 1 Tim. 2:12.

      (2) I agree that we need to take into consideration the genre of texts. While “narratives almost always involve specific situations,” so do letters sent to individuals or particular churches. The Pauline letters were written with specific issues in mind.

      As well as the genre, we need to pay attention to the immediate context where words are used. All of 1 Tim. 2:8-15 is addressing bad behaviour from certain people in the Ephesian church.

      (3) I’ve never been able to find ἐπιτρέπω in the present tense in a text either. It’s typically aorist. Still, the meaning of the verb isn’t obscure, whatever the tense.

      I appreciate your discussion on Plutarch’s Custom of the Spartans. I’d love to know how you highlighted οὐκ ἐπέτρεπον! That is so useful! (I don’t understand why you’ve described the quotation from Plutarch as a “slightly dated” reference, unless you think 1 Timothy was written well into the second century CE.)

      4 Maccabees 5:26 also refers to an ongoing custom.

      Nevertheless, it makes good sense of the context of 1 Timothy 2:8-15 to understand that what is being disallowed in 1 Timothy 2:12 is (1) faulty teaching from a woman who needed to learn and (2) her controlling behaviour towards her husband.

      It doesn’t make sense to prohibit sound teaching. But if prohibiting sound teaching from a woman was Paul’s usual practice (which seems unlikely considering his respect of women ministers such as Prisca) surely Timothy would have already known this.

      1. (1) I agree that permission can (and often is) applied and withheld in specific situations. I think one of the challenges if we were to continue this discussion would be to distinguish a few different ways situations can be understood as narrowed. For example, I think that ἐπιτρέπω can be fairly easily understood as referring to a ‘general prohibition’ on semantic grounds. But absolutely a ‘general prohibition’ on this level could end up within the broader context referring to a (comparatively) localised situation. (as you have pointed out, in the broader context of 1 Cor, even if one were to read Pauls words as a general prohibition there, that would clearly only apply to a particular context, as elsewhere within the letter ostensibly similar activities are described without comment. Just as I don’t think this word forces things to be ‘local’ in any one particular sense (e.g. is the ‘local’ thing the addressing of that subsection of women that wish to speak in the gathering? a specific woman? a group of women with a specific issue?) so I also think we need broader context to help understand what this means.

        (2) I appreciate the responses. I’m becoming increasingly aware of how interconnected our interpretative grids are for these questions, and will continue to consider the many other ingredients involved.

        (3) The search tools aren’t quite as responsive as I’d like them to be (you have to wade through a fair amount of fluff unless you’re searching for very specific things) but you can search the Perseus library in Greek from this link: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/search

        There’s a keyboard in the top right that shows how to represent Greek letters and accents in the search. You can search for all forms of a word and for exact phrases, but I’m not sure you can mix these. Anyway, see what you think!

        1. Thanks, Mojay. I use the Perseus website almost every day, and often use the “search” field, but you must be doing something a bit differently from what I do.

          I’m not sure what else there is to say about ἐπιτρέπω. It means “allow” or “permit.”
          And based on surviving evidence:
          ~ it’s typically used where the permission is ad-hoc,
          ~ it’s usually used in the aorist,
          ~ it’s rarely used where permission is withheld.

          But this verb is just one piece of the puzzle in understanding what 1 Timothy 2:12 meant to Timothy and the Ephesian Church.

          Also, I’m pretty sure I have never made the claim that ἐπιτρέπω is only used in localised cases/contexts. If you’ve seen a statement from me that sounds like “only” please let me know so I can fix it.

          1. Hi Marg,

            I just note that this is a context where it isn’t in aorist and permission is withheld. That certainly means we need to keep an open mind and not allow the majority of other NT passages to unduly shape our reading. (i.e. I still hold to the substance of my original points (1) – (3). I also still think the music example is the most enlightening thing I’ve read.)

            Absolutely this is only one piece of the puzzle. Of course making sure we have a very careful understanding of each individual piece is the only way we are going to make progress fitting the whole thing together.

          2. When it comes to 1 Timothy 2:12, I wish everyone had an open mind. This verse and its context are far from clear.

  15. Here is my sermon on I Cor. 14:26-40: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/i-cor-1426-40-dr-priscilla-turner/ . It’s in this list: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/books-print-shorter-writing-speaking-dr-priscilla-turner/

    As with that passage, the larger context of the I Tim. text, both the words and the pagan environment, is pivotal. The Pastorals in general, and I Tim. in particular, are concerned about two evils: falsehoods spread by teachers who were often of the very common itinerant kind and earned a living that way, and Christian family life that failed to testify to the truth to outsiders. All the Pauline Epistles are ‘occasional’ but this is particularly true of the Pastorals IMHO. In addition, in the Gospel record there seems to be a special sense of the ‘teach’ word διδάσκειν connoting “work as a public, itinerant teacher” as the Lord did. It is more often than not expressed with the periphrastic tense Ἦν διδάσκων. And the term sometimes translated “bear authority” is quite obscure, but may mean “boss about, act independently of” someone. Taking one thing with another, I’d translate I Tim. 2:11-12, “Let the married woman study quietly (i.e. at home) with all submission (i.e. to God): I give no leave for a married woman to be gadding about teaching, or to be bossing her husband about (OR making money outside the home); what I do allow is for her to enjoy a quiet life (i.e. at home).” Neglected husbands and children are never edifying! The best pattern over most of a marriage is undoubtedly that she makes the nest while he brings home the bacon.

    N.B. there is no object in the accusative case of the person or thing taught in this text, or in the possible dative case of the person to whom something is taught. There is NOTHING here forbidding women from teaching men: if we translate here simply “teach” the prohibition is absolute, and no woman may teach anyone anything at any time, even at home in the case of her own children (which is manifest nonsense).

    1. I also take didaskein (“to teach”) as absolute in 1 Timothy 2:12, and that only authentein (“to domineer, control”) is connected to andros (“man, husband”). I mention this a few times in my articles, including in a footnote here: https://margmowczko.com/a-woman-not-all-women-1-timothy-212/

      It makes sense that Paul did not want this Ephesian woman, who needed to learn (1 Tim. 2:11), to teach anyone. Because summaries of Genesis 2-3 are mentioned in 1 Timothy 2:13-14, I think she was teaching wrong things about Adam and Eve.

      I can’t see that Paul would have had a problem with Ephesian women working for money outside the home. And many ancient men and women worked at workshops or fields connected, or close by, to their homes. In most societies throughout history, women as well as men have worked to provide for their families. Sticking to domestic duties and “feathering the nest” was and is a luxury that only middle-class and elite women can afford.

      And how is this woman meant to study at home? She needs good teachers. Christians weren’t producing handwritten Bible studies for the personal use of the average person. Writing documents was a very expensive process in the first century and not everyone could read.

  16. Putting this comment here, which I stumbled on today, so I can think about it.

    Another matter is the use of ἐπιτρέπω which elsewhere Paul never used to indicate his directions to the churches (it only occurs in 1 Corinthians 16:7 in reference to God, cf. Hebrews 6:3), rather he used παραγγέλλω (1 Corinthians 7:10, 11:17, 1 Thessalonians 4:11), and it occurs in the passive here (as a rule of what is permitted). But ἐπιτρέπω is a key similarity with the parallel passage in 1 Timothy 2:12 where “Paul” uses οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω in reference to women teaching in the church. And passive ἐπιτρέπεται is surprisingly non-existent in the literature of the early Christians (with one of the few early examples found in Origen commenting on 1 Corinthians 14:34-35), but curiously it occurs in Acts 26:1 which also concerns permission to speak (ἐπιτρέπεται σοι ὑπὲρ σεαυτοῦ λέγειν), in this case granted to Paul by Agrippa. Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/AcademicBiblical/comments/scmx5j/comment/hu8fp25/?utm_source=reddit&utm_medium=web2x&context=3

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Marg's Blog

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


Join Marg's Patreon

Would you like to support my ministry of encouraging mutuality and equality between men and women in the church and in marriage?