ordination, authority, Twelve Apostles, priests, women ministers

There are over two dozen articles about 1 Timothy 2:12 on this website. Some of them are fairly lengthy, but in this one I get straight to the point of why 1 Timothy 2:12 is not about female ministers who know God, who know the Bible, and are able teachers.

I take 1 Timothy 2:12 literally, and it says nothing about whether competent women can be pastors and preachers, or not. This becomes clearer when we pull back from this one verse and look at its immediate context.

In 1 Timothy 2:8-15 Paul addresses and corrects problem behaviour from various people in the Ephesian church:

1. angry quarrelling men (“men” is plural in verse 8)
2. overdressed rich women (“women” is plural in verses 9 and 10)
3. a woman or a wife (the Greek word for “woman/wife” is singular in verses 11 and 12, and the Greek “saved” verb is singular in verse 15; it is correctly translated as “she will be saved.” Cf. 1 Tim. 2:15 CSB).

1 Timothy 2:11-12 is about a woman in the Ephesian church who needed to learn. (Presumably, she needed to learn scripture and Christian doctrine.) Furthermore, she was not allowed to teach and was not allowed to domineer a man, probably her husband. She needed to chill.

Paul goes on, and in 1 Timothy 2:13-14 he gives correct summary statements of Genesis 2 and 3. It is not clear why he mentions Adam and Eve, but it may have been to provide a correction to the woman’s faulty teaching of the Law (Torah), particularly a corrupted version of Genesis 2 and 3 that favoured Eve (cf. 1 Tim. 1:3-4, 7).

1 Timothy 2:15 is a difficult verse to decipher but it may be about the woman’s domineering behaviour towards her husband. She may have been refusing sex and avoiding childbirth for reasons of piety (cf. 1 Tim. 4:3a). Sexual renunciation was not uncommon in the early church. (Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 7:1-6 to address the issue of both married and single Corinthian Christians who were choosing to become and remain celibate.)

Paul is addressing problem behaviour of both men and women and offering corrections in 1 Timothy 2:8-15. He also gives directives about problem behaviour of both men and women in 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 which contains the verses 1 Corinthians 14:34-35: “women are to be silent in the churches …” These two passages, about issues in the Ephesian and Corinthian churches, are not Paul’s general thoughts about wholesome, edifying ministry.

The apostle’s overall theology of ministry was, “You have a gift use it,” and he doesn’t exclude women from his general statements about ministry, including leadership and teaching ministries, in Romans 12:6-8 CSB, 1 Corinthians 12:28 CSB, and Ephesians 4:11.

Furthermore, it’s important to note that church meetings in the first century were different from most church services today. Paul encouraged participation in ministry and even welcomed spontaneous contributions during church meetings (1 Cor. 14:26 CSB; Col 3:16 CSB). He did not prohibit gifted and orderly speech, only nuisance, unedifying speech and wrong teaching.

Paul did not silence or limit the ministries of capable, gifted, and well-behaved men or women in either 1 Timothy 2:8-15 or in 1 Corinthians 14:26-40, or in any other verses in his letters. So I repeat, 1 Timothy 2:12 has nothing to say, one way or the other, about whether competent women can be pastors or preachers or any other kind of church leader or minister.

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Related Articles

1 Corinthians 14:34-35 in a Nutshell
All “in a Nutshell” articles here.
An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12 than joins the dots of 2:11-15
All articles on 1 Timothy 2:12 here.
A few of these 1 Timothy 2:12 articles look at the language of this verse, a few look at the historical context of ancient Ephesus, a couple look at the popularity and problems of celibacy in the early church, and others look at verse 12 in the literary context of First Timothy.

New Testament, apostle Paul and women, gender roles
artigos em portugues sobre igualdade entre homens e mulheres no lar e na igreja