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Part 4: 1 Timothy 2:11–12—Phrase by Phrase

So now we come to the passage that has been used by most of the church for most of its history to prohibit women from any ministry that involves teaching and leading men.

Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach, or domineer a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was created first and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. But she will be saved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with moderation.  1 Timothy 2:11–15 

Verse 11: A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.

Verse 11 is the only verse in this passage that contains a command:  “A woman should learn . . .” This instruction is significant as many women at that time were not well educated and were not encouraged to learn. Note, however, Paul is not saying here that women must learn. Woman is singular and not plural in verse 11. It could be that Paul is writing about a woman, that is, one particular Ephesian woman who was not quiet and who was misbehaving in some way.

Verse 11 includes the word “submission.” This is a common word in the New Testament and it is used in a variety of contexts. The concept of women being submissive has been greatly over-emphasised by many Christians. Submission is the opposite of rebellion and, in verse 11, Paul may be simply instructing a woman to learn in a quiet, respectable manner—the usual conduct of a good student—and not to be loud, offensive, or rebellious.

Verse 12a: I am not allowing a woman to teach . . .

Note again that the word for “woman” in verse 12 is singular and not plural. This verse is not saying that women cannot teach men, unless “woman” and “man” are understood generically as applying to all the Ephesian women and men.[1] It is important to note, however, that in the verses immediately preceding verses 11–12, Paul gives instructions to men and to women (plural) (1 Tim. 2:8–10). Why the marked shift from plural to singular? (More on this here.)

Another point to consider here is that Paul does not use an imperative in 1 Timothy 2:12. Paul does not use any of the Greek command tenses in this verse. Instead, he uses the present active indicative epitrepō with the negative ouk: “I am not allowing . . .”

Andrew Perriman (1993) notes that the use of epitrepō in the New Testament, in every case, is “. . . related to a specific and limited set of circumstances . . .”[2] Perriman goes on to say that, because of Paul’s choice of words, the instruction in verse 12 is more about [local] church governance and practice than about theological authority. Moreover, Perriman believes verse 12 to be parenthetical and that Paul’s real concern is not with women teaching, but that the Ephesian women (or woman) should learn in such a way that they will not be deceived by false teachers. Perriman’s suggestion that Paul’s real concern was about women learning is worth considering; however, I am not fully convinced by it. [More on the use of epitrepō in the New Testament here.]

John E. Toews (1983) notes that the use of epitrepō in the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament), is likewise usually related to a “specific and limited situation rather than a universal one” (Gen. 39:6 LXX; Est. 9:14 LXX; Job 32:14 LXX; see also Wisdom 19:2; 1 Macc. 15:6; 4 Macc. 4:18). (Epitrepō in 4 Maccabees 5:26, however, is an exception and is not necessarily used in a limited sense.)[3]

It could be that Paul’s instruction in 1 Timothy 2:12 was related to a specific, limited, local situation. The instruction may even have been limited to a particular woman in the Ephesian church.

1 Timothy 2:12 in Context: 1 Timothy 2:11-12 Phrase by Phrase (authentein)

Image: Screenshot of the word AUTHENTEIN in 1 Timothy 2:12 as it appears in Codex Sinaiticus,  online here.

Verse 12b: . . . nor authentein a man . . .

Understanding the word authentein is vital to understanding 1 Timothy 2:12. It is not related to the common Greek word for authority, exousia, which occurs fairly often in the New Testament. Authentein, from the verb authenteō, is a rare word and used only once in the New Testament.

A related noun, authentēs, is found in other ancient Greek literature where it is used in reference to violent crimes including murder, suicide and even child sacrifice.[4] “The Greek orator Antiphon used this word in his legal briefs four times to refer to murder and one time to refer to suicide. Dio Cassius, Thucydides, Herodotus, Euripides, and Philo all used the word in this way.” (Braun 1981)  In the Septuagint, the word (in the plural) is used to describe murderous parents (Wisdom 12:6). But the noun may not be helpful in understanding the verb authentein.

Cynthia Long Westfall (2016: 292), who has studied authent– words for many years, observes:

“In the Greek corpus, the verb authenteō refers to a range of actions that are not restricted to murder or violence. However, the people who are targets of these actions are harmed, forced against their will (compelled), or at least their self-interest is being overridden, because the actions involve an imposition of the subject’s will, ranging from dishonour to lethal force.”

This is a helpful explanation of the meaning of the verb. A general sense of authentein is “to domineer.” Early Latin translations of authentein in 1 Timothy 2:12 relate this sense of “domineer.”

Importantly, Paul chose not to use any of the many Greek words which can mean “exercise authority” or “govern.”[5] He chose to use authentein. What Paul meant by this word is difficult, if not impossible, for us to fully grasp. For this reason, caution must be taken when interpreting and applying 1 Timothy 2:12. Yet most churches interpret and apply 1 Timothy 2:12 as though its meaning, and Paul’s intention, are perfectly plain.

A detailed article on authentein is here. More articles on authentein are here.

Another important consideration in interpreting and understanding 1 Timothy 2:12 is the conjunction oude which joins didaskein (“to teach”) with authentein. In New Testament Greek, words joined by the correlative conjunction oude may join to make a single point. They may even share and blend their meanings to some extent.[6] So Paul may well have been prohibiting a kind of teaching that was domineering or unacceptable in some other way.

In his book Man and Woman, One in Christ, Philip Payne has argued strongly that 1 Timothy 2:12 contains a hendiadys and that didaskein (“to teach”) is connected in meaning with authentein. With this understanding, the verse is saying a woman is not allowed to teach a man in a domineering manner.

Andrew Perriman (1993:141 fn28), however, believes that didaskein should be taken as absolute (and therefore not connected to the word “man”) and that “oude authentein andros [is] itself something of a parenthesis: [though] authentein would still presuppose didaskein.” With this understanding, the verse is saying that a woman is (1) not allowed to teach (anyone), and (2) she is not allowed to domineer a man who may be her husband.

Verse 12c: . . . she must be silent (NIV 1984).

The Greek word hēsychia which is translated in the NIV (1984) as “silent” really means “calmness” or “quietness,” with the allusion of “keeping one’s seat.” This same word is more correctly translated as “quiet” a 1 Timothy 2:11. (The related adjective occurs in 1 Timothy 2:2.) Paul wants a woman (or women) to learn quietly. (More on hēsuchia here.)

As well as strengthening the meaning of hēsychia by translating it as “silent,” the NIV 1984 adds the unwarranted qualifier of “must,” as in “she must be silent. There is no “must” in this verse, there is no command in the Greek. Why did the translators overemphasise this phrase? Is this an example of bias when translating passages about women? (The NIV 2011 retains “must” but replaces “silent” with “quiet”.)

I suggest that Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy 2:11–12 were a correlation of his censure of an ill-informed and poorly-behaved woman in the Ephesian church who was teaching, or spreading, a heresy with some similarities to Christian gnosticism, and who was domineering a man. Perhaps there was something sexual in her manner like Jezebel of Thyatira who was “teaching and seducing” (Rev. 2:20KJV). Or maybe her domineering behaviour had something to do with the false teachers who were forbidding marriage (1 Tim. 4:3).[7]

If you have read all four parts of this article, please don’t stop now. Part five helps it all to make much more sense.


The Bohairic Coptic version of 1 Timothy 2:9–15 with an English translation can be viewed here.

[1] New Testament verses that speak about a singular man and a singular woman usually refer to a husband and wife. In Greek, the same word is used for an adult male and for a husband. Similarly, the same word is used for an adult woman and for a wife. 1 Timothy 2:12 may be referring to an activity that involves one man and one woman, a married couple. (More on this here.)

[2] For example, the use of epitrepō is used in Matthew 19:8 and Mark 10:4–5 indicates that Moses’s permission for divorce was a concession with limitations. All the occurrences of epitrepō in the New Testament are listed and briefly discussed here.

[3] Here are the verses in the Septuagint that contain epitrepō (ἐπιτρέπω).
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.

[4] In his book, Insight into Two Biblical Passages, Leland Wilshire draws on the meaning of the noun authentēs, which meant “murderer” in classical Greek, and concludes that authentein (from the verb authenteō) means “to instigate violence” in 1 Timothy 2:12 (2010: 37, 38) If violence was the issue in the Ephesian church, I imagine Paul would have used much stronger language than he does in 1 Timothy 2:12 and surrounding verses. Wilshire (2010: 30) does mention the possibility of “outspoken women” in the Ephesian church, but being outspoken hardly qualifies as violence, even if hyperbole is used in 1 Timothy 2:12, as Wilshire suggests.

[5] Linda Belleville (2004: 211) notes, “Within the semantic domain of ‘exercise authority,’ the biblical lexicographers, J.P Louw and Eugene Nida [in their Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains  #37.35–47; #37.48–95] have twelve entries and forty-seven entries of ‘rule,’ ‘govern.’ [Authentein is absent from both of these domains.] Yet Paul chose none of these. Why not? The obvious reason is that authentein carried a nuance (other than ‘rule’ or ‘have authority’) that was particularly suited to the Ephesian situation.”
Here is the entry of authenteō in Louw and Nida: “37.21 αὐθεντέω: to control in a domineering manner—‘to control, to domineer.’ γυναικὶ οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω … αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός ‘I do not allow women … to dominate men’ 1 Tm 2.12. …” (Internet Archive p.474)
Note that Louw and Nida have translated the singular γυναικὶ and ἀνδρός as the plural “women” and “men.” This seems to reflect their interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12 rather than being a literal translation.

[6] More on 1 Timothy 2:12 and oude here: The Early Christians at Ephesus from Paul to Ignatius, by Paul Trebilco (2004: 513)

[7] The teaching of heresy may have involved sexual practices. I remember coming across this suggestion years ago and reacting with disbelief. I completely dismissed this idea. But the more I read about the problems in Early Church and incipient Christian Gnosticism, the more I see a possibility that a woman in the church at Ephesus was teaching, or spreading, the heresy in a sexual way as Jezebel was. However, I am more inclined to believe that the woman in question was withholding sex from her husband. Celibacy, even in marriage, was considered a virtue by many early Christians (cf. 1 Tim. 2:15). I explain this further, here.

© Margaret Mowczko 2009
Last edited June 12, 2017.

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1 Timothy 2:12 in Context

Part 1 – Introduction: Using 1 Timothy 2:12 as a Proof Text
Part 2 – Artemis of Ephesus and her Temple
Part 3 – The Heresy in the Ephesian Church
Part 4 – 1 Timothy 2:11–12, Phrase by Phrase
Part 5 – 1 Timothy 2:13–15: The Creation and Salvation of Woman

Explore more

An interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12 that joins the dots of 2:11–15
The meaning of authentein in 1 Timothy 2:12 with a brief history of authent– words
6 Reasons 1 Timothy 2:12 is not as clear as it seems
Why 1 Timothy 2:12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34 are not timeless regulations (epitrepō)
The Prominence of Women in the Cultic Life of Ephesus

32 thoughts on “1 Timothy 2:12 in Context (4): Phrase by Phrase

  1. Dear Marg,

    Thanks for this interesting article. It has certainly caused me to think again about this important and controversial passage of God’s word. I’m afraid that I have to disagree with your interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12 and a number of points and on a number of levels both theologically and grammatically.

    Firstly to your comments on v.12a. It is true that the word for woman and man in the original Greek of this verse is in the singular. However, one of the reasons why many preachers and theologians are able to interpret this verse as applying generally to women not teaching men is because the noun for woman here is regarded by leading Greek Grammarians as a generic singular noun (see Daniel B. Wallace, “Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics” p.253-4. You could ask, ‘Why is it in the singular and not in the plural’?. The answer may be that Paul’s use of the generic singular makes his prohibition of women teaching men even more stronger because of it’s particularity. In other words, it’s almost as if Paul is saying I do not permit “any woman to teach or have authority over any man”.

    Secondly, you write that “there is no justifiable reason to apply this verse in a church leadership or church service context”. On the contrary, there is one very justifiable reason for applying this verse in such a context and it is in the very next chapter of 1 Timothy. Paul’s purpose statement for writing this letter is so that Timothy (and by his example the church in Ephesus) might know how one is to behave in the household of God (1Tim 3:14-15). The “household of God” is one of the way the NT describes the church (see Gal 6:10, 1 Pet 4:17).

    Thirdly, you say there is no command here. This is indeed true, but if we believe that Paul is “an apostle of Christ by the command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope” (1 Tim 1:1), then surely when he says “I do not permit” we should take this prohibition as coming from God? If we reject Paul’s apostleship at this point then why not at other points of his letters too? (It is worth knowing that in Koine Greek commands don’t have to be in the imperative mood to be a command – they can also be in the future or the subjunctive moods.)

    Fourthly, understanding the meaning of ‘authentein’ is indeed one of the most important aspects to understanding this passage. It is true that 1 Tim 2:12 is the only occurrence of the word authentein in the NT. It is common for scholars to look to extrabiblical sources to try to determine the meaning of a word. One scholar H.S. Baldwin has studied the 88 occurrences of the verb in extra-biblical literature and found five possible meanings one of which includes “to tyrannize” as you have mentioned above. The other possible meanings include “to rule”, “to domineer”, “to act independently of” and “to instigate/be responsible for”. The question is how do we know which of the five meanings Paul has intended here? Maybe Paul is using it with a different meaning altogether! It is interesting to note that Baldwin has suggested that the unifying concept of these five possible meanings is “authority”. But we must still be very careful at this point not to let our presuppositions determine which meaning we assign to the word. In the end it is the context (theological and grammatical) that must the final determiner of the meaning of a word and not an outside source or our presuppositions.

    So in your interpretation of this verse you have appealed to the use of the conjunction that joins ‘didaskein’ and ‘authentein’. It is true that conjunctions join words together…that is afterall what conjunction means! But different conjunctions join words differently and it is not precise enough to say that “words joined by a conjunction often combine and share meaning”. The conjunction connecting the words ‘didaskein’ and ‘authentein’ is ‘oude’ which means “and not/neither/nor”. You have concluded that this particular conjunction is acting adverbly by subordinating ‘authentein’ to ‘didaskein’. I can see why you would want to conclude this because it leaves the door open to the interpretation that women are permitted to teach men – as long as they don’t do it tyrannically or in a domineering way. It is at this point that you have let your presuppositions didicate your interpretation of this verse! For the NT Professor Dr. A. J. Kostenberger has shown that this conjunction does not function as a subordinating conjunction but as a co-ordinating one. In other words, Paul is talking about two separate and distinct events/activities here not one. That’s not to say that they are unrelated. Theologically these two activities are closely related but not grammatically in the way you have concluded. In addition, Kostenberger has argued that when ‘oude’ is used the two words that it joins must be both positive or both negative in meaning. We would naturally take the word didaskein as being positive in meaning. Grammatically speaking then, authentein must also be positive in meaning. Therefore ‘authentein’ cannot mean “to tyrannise” or “to domineer” – unless you think that tyranny and domination are positive things! I certainly do not and would reject any teaching that suggests that men where to lead in a domineering way over women. This leaves us with the options of “to rule”, “to act independently of” or “to be responsible for” – all of which clearly describe the state of having authority.

    Furthermore, this verse comes in the immediate context of Paul commanding a woman (generic noun) to learn (imperative) “with all submissiveness” (1 Tim 2:11). Since submission is usually acted out in response to someone in authority, the most natural rendering of authentein in this context is “authority”.

    I have further comments to make about your interpretation of the following verses which I will make separately. In the meantime, I would be interested in your response to the points that I have made. Thanks.

    Cameron Blair

    1. Hi Cameron,

      About your first point. I think what I have written about the singular “man” and “woman” is fine and fair. I have not made any conclusive statements about it, just drawn the readers’ attention to it.

      As to your second point: I stand by my opinion that Paul’s prohibition does not necessarily refer to a church meeting setting. “Good works” (benefactions) (2:10) and childbirth (2:15) does not usually happen in church meetings. Your text of 1 Timothy 3:14-15 comes immediately after Paul’s instructions about how church leaders/elders and ministers/deacons should behave in God’s household – the Church. Paul could hardly have been saying that the moral behaviour he requires of church leaders and ministers is only applicable during church services or meetings.

      Church leaders, and (of course) all true believers and followers of Christ, are part of God’s household, the church, 24/7, even when it is not assembled for a meeting. I doubt that Paul’s prohibition to a woman teaching a man was limited to a church meeting setting, especially as at least some of the false teaching was being spread “door to door”. (See 1 Tim 5:13, 15).

      As to your third point: I recognise Paul’s authority, however, if he was really making a permanent, universal prohibition, or a denouncement of all women church leaders, one would expect much stronger language. (one would also expect him to mention in Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:11ff; Colossians 3:16, etc.

      My point is that Paul chose to use the milder language of the present active indicative in this statement, and not the imperative nor the hortatory subjunctive nor the future, etc. [I am aware that many theologians do not believe that 1 Timothy was written by the Apostle Paul, but as 1 Timothy is included in the New Testament canon, it has the authority of Holy Scripture.]

      Fourthly, I have had a VERY good look at authentein over the years, from many sources, including primary sources in Ancient Greek literature and papyri. “to tyrannize,” “to rule,” “to domineer,” “to act independently of,” is undesirable behaviour from any believer, male or female. Whatever Paul’s specific meaning may have been, he was talking about a negative, sinful, and selfish action – the complete antithesis of godly behaviour and Christian leadership.

      Also, I haven’t concluded but have suggested that the use of the conjunction oude may be used epexegetically as it is in Romans 2:28; 3:10 and 1 Corinthians 5:1; 15:10. Furthermore, I take both “teaching” and authentein to be taken in a negative light, considering Paul’s disapproval of it. Why would Paul disapprove of excellent teaching? (cf. Phil 1:18). Furthermore, authentein and didaskein are closely related grammatically, and I wonder why you would say otherwise (?). They are both present active infinitives.

      Finally, students should be submissive to their teachers. Being submissive to a good and godly teacher has nothing whatsoever to do with authentein. In fact, being submissive, humble, and meek should be the character traits of all Christians.

  2. Marg,

    I agree with much of Cameron’s point.

    All NT uses of didasken are positive except one in Titus 1:11 where the context makes clear it is false teaching. Therefore here is must also be positive to be consistent with the rest of the NT. Also, all uses of ‘teach’ in the pastorals relate to authoritative teaching done by the leaders…thus church context.

    Note also that Paul emplys a seperate verb ‘teach falsely’ twice elsewhere in the same epistle yet why not here if it is false teaching. Again teach must be positive not negetive?

    Not being in the imperative is not an issue. There are plenty of other NT ‘commands’ that are not in the imperative, e.g Romans 12:1 that are binding for all time.

    Oude cannot function the way you want it to. Syntactically it cannot as Kostenberger has shown…read his article. In fact read the whole book, ‘Women in the Church’ if you are serious about this issue.

    The singular is generic. Paul emplys the same thing in Titus 1, swtiching from plural ‘elders’, to the singular ‘an overseer’, but obviously has ‘all overseers’ in view.

    Final point. You spent three whole posts setting up you historical revision before even touching the text. Can u seriously expect us to take such an approach seriously. Let’s not downgrade scripture for personal speculation.

    1. 1 Timothy 2:12 was written to a specific church experiencing specific problems that many people today have no idea about, hence I provided background material. In preceeding posts, I have also drawn attention to other relevant verses in 1 Timothy, rather than just view 1 Timothy 2:12 in isolation from the rest of the letter.

      Learning about Biblical times and places can hardly be seen as a frivolous pursuit. Most people find it helpful to have some idea about the author’s reasons for writing, and the situations and issues that were being addressed. It is also helpful to have some understanding of the culture of the protagonists in historical narratives, or the culture of the recipients of the New Testament letters.

      I would think that my approach actually showed my seriousness, much more than if I ignored Paul’s reasons for writing, or ignored the problem of false teaching in the Ephesian church and the emerging threat of Gnosticism, or ignored the cult of Artemis which had a huge influence on Ephesian culture. In answer to your question, Yes, I do expect my readers to take my approach seriously.

      As mentioned in my posts, the whole context of 1 Timothy is about false teaching, and I disagree that “teaching” in 1 Tim. 2:12 is positive.

      There are several instances in the Pastoral letters where didaskō and its cognates are used for corrupt, inadequate or “other” teaching:
      heterodidaskalein (infinitive) “to teach other doctrines” in 1 Timothy 1:3;
      nomodidaskaloi (concrete noun) “teachers of the law” in 1 Timothy 1:7;
      didaskaliais (abstract noun) “doctrines/teaching” of demons in 1 Timothy 4:1;
      heterodidaskalei (verb) in “teaches other doctrines” 1 Timothy 6:3;
      didaskalous (concrete noun) “doctrines/teachings” that cater to itching ears in 2 Timothy 4:3;
      didaskontes (participle) “teaching” things that shouldn’t be taught in Titus 1:11;
      didaskein (infinitive) “to teach” in 1 Timothy 2:12.

      In fact, false teaching was such a problem at Ephesus and Crete that Paul often uses positive adjectives and adverbs to qualify “teach/teaching/teacher” words in order to distinguish the good teaching he was encouraging in Timothy and Titus from the prevalent false teaching.

      These positive qualifying words include:
      “a teacher … in faithfulness and truth” (1 Tim. 2:7),
      good/fine teaching” (1 Tim. 4:6);
      “teach … these [correct] things” (1 Tim. 6:2);
      sound/wholesome teaching” (1 Tim. 6:3; 2 Tim. 4:3; Tit. 1:9; Tit. 2:1);
      godly teaching” (1 Tim. 6:3);
      my [i.e. Paul’s] teaching” (2 Tim. 3:10);
      “the teaching of the faithful word” (Tit. 1:9);
      “teachers of what is good” (Tit. 2:3), etc.

      At this point in time I believe that didaskein and authentein are both negative. Why would Paul prohibit good teaching?

      Also, I understand that woman (singular) can be used in a generic sense to mean women in “I am not allowing a woman . . .” However I believe it is less likely that man (singular) [or husband ] is meant to be understood generically as men (plural).

      I believe that if Paul had wanted to prohibit a woman, or women, from teaching men (plural) he would have said so. However, whatever the intention of “man,” it is important to note that Priscilla taught a man and no one seems to have had a problem with this.

      In regards to your comment about Romans 12:1, as wonderful as it is, because of the way Paul has written it, I don’t think that you can classify it grammatically as a command. On the other hand, Paul uses “command” words (verb: paraggellō; noun: paraggelia) seven times in 1 Timothy (1 Tim. 1:3, 5, 18; 4:11; 5:7; 6:13, 17 KJV). Paraggellō can also be translated as “prescribe” or “instruct” with a strong sense.

    2. “Let’s not downgrade scripture for personal speculation.” I hardly think this is what Marg, and the plethora of serious scholars who have arrived at this position, are doing.

      You also assume that there can only be one linguistic representation for a given concept when you assume that what “Paul” uses for teach falsely should remain constant. I use quotations because you seem to forget the secretary and the coauthors in “Paul’s” letters. (See E. R. Richards work on Paul and amanuesis (secretary). Differences in diction could very well be the result of a secretary, coauthor, or socio-rhetorical situation.

  3. Paul himself hints that the heresy as some kind of gnōsis or fledgeling gnosticism. Please read 1 Timothy 6:20-21 in the Greek.

    Tertullian identified the Ephesian heresy as an early or incipient form of gnosticism. Tertullian quoted from 1 Timothy 1:3 and, referring to Paul, added “which the inspired apostle by anticipation condemned, whilst the seeds of heresy were even then shooting forth.” Tertullian, Against the Valentinians, chapter 3. Ireneaus also identified the Ephesian heresy as an early form of gnosticism in his Against Heresies. Admittedly, the gnosticism these men were acquainted with was where developed systems.

    You have quoted from noted theologians; allow me to also. Philip B. Payne (p244-246) notes that, “Paul’s typical use of oude elsewhere to convey a single idea shows oude is the perfect conjunction to combine “to teach” and “to assume authority” into a single prohibition.

    To interpret oude in 1 Tim 2:12 as separating two different prohibitions for women, however, one against teaching and another against having authority over a man, does not conform to Paul’s customary use of oude. . . . Of the passages listed in Kostenberger’s Ibycus search of ancient Greek literature, only one other passage perfectly replicates 1 Tim 2:12’s syntactical structure: (1) a negated finite verb + (2) infinitive + (3) oude + (4) infinitive + (5) alla + (6) infinitive. This is in Polybius (ca 202-120BC), History . . . The next closest parallel to 1 Tim 2:12 . . . is in Josephus (ca AD 37-100) Ant 7.127.1-3 . . . Both of these passages use the oude construction to convey a single idea. Click on Payne’s name in this comment to see the full explanation of the use of oude in these passages.

    If didaskein (“to teach)” and authentein, however, are not connected to form a hendiadys, then “to teach” is not connected grammatically to the word for “man”, as “man” is in the genitive case in 1 Tim 2:12, andros, but objects of didaskein usually take the accusative case. The word “man” is only connected to authentein which can take an object in the genitive case.

    Furthermore, didaskein is the first word in 1 Timothy 2:12; authentein andros are the seventh and eight words; the two ideas are separated by five words.

    In this scenario, Paul is giving two prohibitions: (1) a woman (who needed to learn as per 1 Timothy 2:11) is not permitted to teach [anyone], and (2) a woman is not permitted to control/dominate a man. And yet, many churches allow women to teach some people.

  4. Marg,

    I agree that background info is helpful. Where i disagree is when we step beyond what the epistle teaches and insert things like ‘gnosticism’ into the text. Clearly Paul wrote to counter false teaching, that is not an issue. But we must be careful not to allow our own revisionism to interfere with exegesis. I feel you have done this as shown by your exegetical comments that are simply not possible.

    The issue is whether 1 TIm 2:12 refers to the false teaching. It simply cannot as shown by the syntatical parallels shown by Kostenberger, Balwin’s research on authentein etc…

    To argue that both teach and have authroity over are negetive is to outright reject the evidence at hand. I encourage you to look further as you stated.

  5. What Mark and Cameron both do not see is that they are themselves bringing their presuppositions to the text.

    I think that ultimately, this passage is not clear. If one has an egal assumption, it can be read in an egal way; in fact there are many egal ways to read it. If one has a comp assumption, then it can be read in a comp way, in a few ways. But with all these possibilities, it remains unclear. Therefore it is incorrect as a prot to try to determine any doctrine on it.

  6. It is unclear to us what Paul is precisely getting at. Timothy and Ephesian Church would have known exactly who and what Paul was referring to. We don’t. And so I’ve come to a similar conclusion: Don’t use 1 Timothy 2:12 as a proof text.

  7. Thank you so much for this wonderful article. Two incredibly gifted woman pastors have played an important role in my spiritual growth with the clear authority of the Holy Spirit on their work, so I have always been convinced that women cannot be probihited from preaching. Yet as I always wish to view the Bible as the Word of God, this passage really discouraged me and even caused me to think of the Scripture as something not so credible as I had thought. I was tormented by the thought that maybe I cannot trust the Bible as much as I had believed, as here Paul is forbidding something which obviously should not be forbidden. I have read various interpretations of the passage which aimed to defend woman pastors, but – as much as I wanted to – I simply was not convinced by them… until I read your article. It has truly been a huge blessing to me 🙂 (By the way, I’m sorry for any possible grammar mistakes, my native tongue is Hungarian…) God bless you 🙂

  8. Hi Betti,

    Thanks for your comment. It is nice to ‘meet’ a visitor from Hungary. Your grammar (and punctuation) is very good.

    I’m so glad, that my article has helped you. I also believe that the Bible is uniquely inspired by God. It is the interpretations – and even some translations – that can miss the context and intent of what was really being said in certain passages.

    You might like this article: https://margmowczko.com/equality-and-gender-issues/portrayal-of-women-and-biblical-inspiration/

    God Bless you too! 😀

  9. Marg,

    Thank you for an interesting read on this verse. I believe you are correct. Mark and Cameron seem to have a closed mind on this. As Christians, we are always supposed to be seeking answers and truth. In the very words of our Lord Jesus Christ ‘call no man teacher’. Should we literally take this to mean man/male? If so, then ONLY women should be teacher since Jesus DID NOT say ‘call no woman teacher’.

    I hope the time is coming quickly that ALL people (both male and female) will realize that we are all equals and equally loved by God.

  10. Hi Dan, I’m glad you found it interesting.

    I find it a real concern that many Christians find it hard to see and treat men and women as equal. What’s with that?

  11. Marg,

    You asked ‘why is that?” I can only speak for myself. In my case, it was because I was a pig-headed, male-entitlement minded, superior human being. I both was and am a sinner. I almost lost my 34 year marriage from that attitude that my beloved was suppose to submit and be my servant. I was in deep sin, and in deep do-do in my marriage. Only through my wife’s grace was our marriage saved. And I admit, she was done with me. Only when I saw how I had broken her spirit, did I open up my heart to the Holy Spirit and His Word.

    I wish I could go back in time. I would tell other sisters to NEVER submit, but to ONLY submit AS THE CHURCH TO CHRIST. And Christ would NEVER ask a woman to be a doormat. Never. He loves us too much.

    Our marriage is based on equality now. My wife has never been happier. And I have never been happier. It is actually very freeing to be able to love Christ first, and then my sister/wife/equal second.

  12. My husband and I have found egalitarianism freeing also, and our marriage has never been better.

    Bless ya, Dan.

  13. All this attempting to justify the letter of the law is good, but unnecessary. Just as Jesus tells the Pharisees, the spirit of the living God’s law is what is important. If the spirit lives within us, then, although we can choose to commit sin, we will feel convictions about them if they truly are sin. I have zero convictions about allowing a woman to teach in the church, and considering the culture was in lower respect for women at the time, it makes sense why Paul would have said something about it. Scripture is God-breathed, but his spirit lives within those words, and transcends time, culture, and even language. Stop looking to the letter and look to the spirit. That’s my opinion, anyway.

  14. Hi Kyle, I take your point, and understand why you left your comment.

    My aim is to look to the Spirit, and look to God’s Word, as I discover God’s will and how to please and serve him.

    I deeply rely on the Holy Spirit to guide me as I study God’s inspired Word, particularly the New Testament. That’s not to say that I get things wrong sometimes.

  15. Hi Marg, I totally agree with you. Many don’t understand because they just heard about it or they have not done any research about it. That’s why its very important to read and understand the bible from cover to cover and not just rely on one teaching.

  16. Hi Marg! I am currently reading Kostenberger’s “Women in the Church” and it has been very helpful to read your articles on 1 Timothy and the following comments and responses! I so easily get bogged down in all the details which I find very confusing since I don’t know greek and all the language rules that apply. It helps me to back up and see the big picture and whether the complementarian meaning fits with the whole of scripture, which it does not! I completely agree with you and Don. It is far too confusing and complex a passage to use as a proof text and I find a lot of freedom in that. 🙂 Let’s build our theology on clear and explicit statements that are not so contested like how Adam and Eve were BOTH given dominion over the earth and that they both bear the image of God. Let’s start there and view the tricky passages through that lense and not the other way around! Sure takes the pressure off! Turns out I don’t have to be a language expert to understand the bible and the gospel!! Thank you Marg for bring balance and rich insight into my studies!

  17. I think the “childbirth” refers to the Roman law Lex lulia et papia. According to this law, a woman who has given birth to three live children can be freed from the tutela mulierum.

    Paul is telling the women they should not authentein over men according to the false teachings, but the way out of the tutela mulierum is by the legal ways provided by the government.

    1. Hi Emil, You’ve told me this before. (Your previous comments are here.)

      I believe “she will be saved” in 1 Timothy 2:15 refers to the salvation Jesus has made possible. I don’t understand how your understanding of salvation, the freedom for a woman to act and seek legal redress without a male representative, is dependent on “if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.”

      And didn’t the Lex lulia et papia only apply to wives of Roman citizens?

      I’ve written more about 1 Timothy 2:15, and why I believe it refers to salvation, here:

  18. Dear Marg,
    These verses are reflecting my interpretation of 1 Timothy 2.
    as the Bride / female principle/ she in all human being …
    Hosea 2:16-23
    “And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more”…

    2 Corinthians 11:1-4
    “I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

    Revelation 19:7-9
    “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
    All my respect,

    1. Hi Mariann, You don’t actually say what your interpretation of Paul’s words are. And the three passages you’ve cited seem unrelated to me. As far as I can make out, they don’t shed light on the situation in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 which I suggest is a woman in Ephesus who needed to learn and not teach, etc.

      As an aside, in Revelation, “the bride” (nymphē) or “the wife” (gynē) of the Lamb is the New Jerusalem “coming down out of heaven from God” (Rev 19:7 “wife”; Rev 21:2 “bride”, Rev 21:9-10 “bride” and “wife”; Rev. 22:17 “bride”; cf. Rev 3:12). See also Galatains 4:26 for another personification of Jerusalem.

  19. Hi Marg,

    I really appreciate your careful, scholarly, thorough approach to your work on this.

    I appreciate how you will reveal what you conclude, but will also demonstrate and understanding of your conclusions potential weaknesses. For example, you aren’t saying complementarians are absolutely wrong from this text (and consequently inferior scholars if they conclude otherwise), but rather suggest there’s enough doubt to say they probably can’t use this text to say that are absolutely right.

    A lot of my personal (although very amateur) research has concluded the similarly to you. Aunthenteo especially is difficult to be absolute about.

    I struggle at this stage to respect conclusions from either side of the debate that does not admit that this passage is complicated.

    I enjoy reading your work and disagree with Mark’s observations that you bring biased and irrelevant assumptions/information to the text. Thank you.

    1. Hi Jess, since writing this article, I have continued to look into the word authenteō in ancient Greek documents. I believe we know enough now that there should be a general consensus that authenteō refers to unacceptable behaviour when done by humans, especially Christian humans.

      Have you seen these articles?

      Authentein in 1 Timothy 2:12, in a Nutshell (A short, simple article)
      The meaning of authentein with a brief history of authent– words (A long, technical article)
      Authentein as Bad Behaviour (in ancient texts)
      Authenteō (Authentein) in Greek-English Lexicons

  20. Great article and I’m relatively new to all this. I believe I’m seeing that 1 Tim 2:12 is the ONLY instance in the entire NT where epitrepo is used in the present active indicative (“I am not permitting”). To me, that alone provides a strong argument not to use this one verse to preclude all women for all time from teaching. Do you agree?

    1. Hi Jill, Present active indicative verbs are very common and are used in a huge range of contexts, so I’m reluctant to pin too much on the grammar of epitrepō in 1 Tim 2:12.

      I agree with Douglas Moo: “The first person present of ἐπιτρέπω allows for a limited application but does not constitute clear evidence for it.” Moo, “The Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:11–15: A Rejoinder,” Trinity Journal 2.2 (1981): 200.

      It is frustrating, however, that epitrepō rarely occurs as a present in other ancient literature. In fact, I can’t find any example of it as a present apart from 1 Timothy 2:12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34 (where it is a present middle/passive indicative). This means we can’t compare epitrepō’s use as a present verb with other ancient literature.

      Based on surviving evidence of epitrepō:
      ~ it’s typically used where the permission is ad-hoc,
      ~ it’s usually used in the aorist, not the present tense,
      ~ it’s rarely used where permission is withheld, as in 1 Cor. 14:34 and 1 Tim. 2:12.

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

      1. Thanks for the reply, Marg. I was listening to a pocast with Nijay Gupta and he brought up an interesting point as well. In 1 Timothy 1:3 Paul mentions that he had left Timothy in Ephesus to try to keep the church from teaching false doctrines, etc. (my paraphrase). If Paul had known that he was going to not allow 50% of Christians from teaching, wouldn’t he have mentioned that to Timothy, or at least in front of Timothy, prior to leaving him in charge of teaching in Ephesus? Doesn’t that also provide strong evidence that 1 Tim 2:12 is about an ad-hoc issue that needed to be addressed?

        1. Paul didn’t need to repeat his general theology of ministry to Timothy because Timothy knew Paul’s views on ministry probably better than anyone. This fact adds weight to the idea that 1 Timothy 2:11-15 were local retrictions and ad hoc advice that Timothy hadn’t heard before.

          I’ve written a shortish blog post entitled, “What Timothy Knew About Paul’s Theology of Ministry.”

  21. Hi Marg,
    I’m having an online discussion with someone about 1 Tim 2, and they state that there is “no historical evidence of women teaching false doctrines in first century Ephesus.”

    How would you respond to that?

    1. Paul wrote 1 Timothy because of the existing threat of false teaching. In both 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy it speaks about women/ widows who are saying and believing rubbish: 1 Timothy 5:13 and 2 Timothy 3:6–7.

      Though we know the names of the false teachers who have been kicked out of the church, and they were men, we don’t know who the teachers who remained are. Some of these may have been women. The wording of 1 Timothy 4:7 (cf. 1 Tim. 1:4, 7) may indicate that women are the messengers of silly myths and old wives’ tales.

      This may or may not have anything to do with 1 Timothy 2:11-12 where Paul tells Timothy that he wanted an Ephesian woman to learn, and that this woman (who still needed to learn) shouldn’t teach.

      To be honest, the statement that there’s “no historical evidence of women teaching false doctrines in first century Ephesus” sounds overblown. Also, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

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