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1 Timothy 2:12, the created order, and Bible men who were guided by godly women

The Wise Woman of Abel Beth Maacah in a fortified tower looking decidedly medieval.
This illustration is from the 13th-century Maciejowski Bible. (Wikimedia Commons)

Some Christians believe that 1 Timothy 2:12 contains a timeless prohibition that forbids a woman from teaching a man and exercising authority over him. They also believe that verse 13 contains a reason for this prohibition.

I do not permit a woman (or wife) to teach or ‘to exercise authority over/ domineer’ [authentein] a man (or husband); rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve (1 Tim. 2:12–13).

New Testament scholar Douglas Moo is one person who believes that “these restrictions [in verse 12] are permanent, authoritative for the church in all times and places and circumstances as long as men and women are descended from Adam and Eve.” But I’m not so sure of the universal scope of 1 Timothy 2:12.

If the created order of man first, woman second, somehow signifies a divine, universal, and incontrovertible principle of male leadership, why are there many examples of women in the Bible who had authority, and who taught and directed certain men? And why did none of these men have a problem with this guidance from women?

The following men didn’t seem to consider that “the created order” was a factor, let alone an impediment, in regards to a woman teaching or leading. They listened to what women had to say, followed their directions, and gained from it.

Two Israelite spies followed the directions Rahab gave them to the letter. By following her directions, they escaped from being caught by the King of Jericho’s men (Josh. 2:16, 22). Furthermore, the intelligence the spies brought back to Joshua is Rahab’s own words, and these words are now part of scripture (Josh. 2:9, 24). (More about Rahab here and here.)

Barak, the general of Israel’s army, depended on Deborah’s leadership. The Israelites, presumably both men and women, came to Deborah for her decisions on important matters (Judges 4:4–6, 8). Some of Deborah’s words are also part of scripture (Judges 5:1ff). (More on Deborah here and here.)

David listened to Abigail’s conciliatory words which prevented a blood bath, and he accepted her prophecy (1 Sam. 25:2–42). And King Lemuel accepted the oracles his mother taught him (Prov. 31:1–9). The words of these women are recorded in scripture where they still instruct both men and women. (More on Abigail here, and more on King Lemuel’s mother here.)

Joab, the general of David’s army, heeded the words of the Wise Woman of Abel Beth Maacah who acted as a spokesperson and negotiated with him for the safety of her town (2 Sam. 20:14–22). Joab agreed to her terms, as did the townsfolk who implemented her plan (2 Sam. 20:22). (More about the Wise Woman of Abel Beth Maacah, and other Bible women with authority, here.)

King Josiah sent a prestigious all-male delegation to the prophetess Huldah. The purpose of the delegation was to inquire of the Lord concerning the rediscovered book of the Law (2 Chron. 34:19–33, etc). Huldah spoke to men on behalf of God, as did other prophetesses. (More about Huldah here.)

When Belshazzar, king of Babylon, was terrified by the writing on the wall and no one could help him, the queen (perhaps the queen-mother), heard the commotion and entered the scene. Before the assembled dignitaries, which included a thousand princes, she gave a speech with valuable information and advice. Belshazzar followed the queen’s instructions (Dan. 5:10–13).

Mordechai and Abraham did what their niece and wife, respectively, directed them to do, and so the men aligned themselves with the will of God (Esth. 4:17 NIV; Gen. 21:12). (More about Esther here.)

There’s no reason to think the men in the temple, those who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem, had a problem with the prophetess Anna when she spoke to them about the Messiah (Luke 2:37–38). Rather, Anna is presented in Luke’s Gospel as a respected prophetess. (More about Anna and other prophetesses, here.)

Jesus didn’t stop the Samaritan woman from telling the men of Sychar about Jesus (John 4:4–42). And later he expressly gave instructions to Mary Magdalene to tell his “brothers” the amazing message that he was alive (John 20:17–18). (More about the Samaritan woman here, and Mary Magdalene here.)

Neither Luke, traditionally thought to be the author of Acts, nor Apollos, a teacher and up-and-coming apostle, seemed to be concerned that Priscilla, with her husband Aquila, corrected Apollos and explained theology to him. (More about Priscilla here.)

The church historian Eusebius reveals that Philip’s four daughters were famous prophets who ministered in the early church. There is nothing to suggest that their ministry was limited to women. (More about Philip’s four daughters here.)

This list of men includes kings, generals, a patriarch, and a teacher, yet there is no indication that any of these men felt affronted by the women who guided and advised them. Nor is there any indication that their masculinity was threatened or diminished because they followed directions and instructions given by women. (These things seem to be a problem for men such as John Piper.) Instead, it appears that these men respected the women and their words.

Moreover, in all these and several other episodes recorded in the Bible, there is not the slightest hint that the men were acting improperly by heeding the words of women. Rather, the men benefited by listening to women, as did, in some cases, whole communities and even the nation of God’s people.

There is not the slightest hint that God had a problem with these men who were being directed by women. Perhaps, after all, the created order has nothing whatsoever to do with who can teach and lead, and who can speak for God.

There must be something more to 1 Timothy 2:12–13 and Paul’s use of Adam and Eve because, the fact is, there are many examples of women who God authorised and used to counsel and guide men, even in matters of theology.

© Margaret Mowczko 2016
All Rights Reserved

A Spanish translation of this article is here.

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Explore more

25 Biblical Roles for Biblical Women
Bible Women with Spiritual Authority
Many women leaders in the Bible have one thing in common
The Significance of the Created Order, in a Nutshell
Are Gender Roles Rooted in Creation?
Women, Teaching, and Deception
Women, Eve, and Deception
All my articles on 1 Timothy 2:12 are here.

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

38 thoughts on “1 Timothy 2:12, the Created Order, and Bible Women who Led Men

  1. Great insight.

    This is another example that the comp appeal to Genesis proves too much; if it were true, so it cannot be true.

    Their most famous claim is that men are to have authority over women in church and home because of early Gen stories, but this would also imply men are to have authority over women not just there but also generally in government and society in general, but most comps do not go that far.

    1. Yes, if God really created men to be the leaders, this should hold true in all spheres of life, not just in the church.

      I like what Michael Bird has written about this:

      “The problem I have here is that some complementarians appeal to Genesis and the order of creation to show that it is inherently wrong for a woman to be in a position of authority over a man, and yet they only apply that restriction to church life or Sunday worship. But that is like saying that it is okay for someone to commit adultery as long as they do not do it on Sunday or in the church auditorium. Or it is like saying that it is okay to commit adultery as long as you do it with an unbeliever. If it is such a clear violation of God’s ordering of creation for a woman to have authority over a man, then this should apply to all spheres of life whether it is business, government, politics, civil service, or church because God is sovereign over all institutions, and all of life is lived before God and under God.”

      Michael F. Bird (2012-12-25) Bourgeois Babes, Bossy Wives, and Bobby Haircuts: A Case for Gender Equality in Ministry (Fresh Perspectives on Women in Ministry) (Kindle Locations 524-526)

  2. Thank you for all your work to help bring truth to us about the role women are to have in the kingdom alongside men.
    Have you read Wade Burleson’s post
    I thought it was very helpful in understanding these 1 Timothy verses.
    Could you give your opinion if you have read it or if you may have the time. I have not heard anyone else come at these verses from his perspective.
    Thank you,

    1. Hi Jenn,

      I have read it, and overall it’s excellent. There are a few details where I disagree.

      ~ There’s simply no evidence of ritual prostitution in the cult of the Ephesian Artemis.
      ~ There is archaeological evidence, however, of sacrifices (e.g. lots of animal bones in the temple precinct). Lynn Lidonnici (1999:85) states, “The altar was large enough to sacrifice hundreds of cattle simultaneously.”
      ~ I’m not sure whether Artemis being born before Apollos is behind 1 Tim 2:13. I suggest syncretistic (or pre-gnostic) stories of creation, where the woman precedes the man, and gives life to the man, may be behind verse 13.
      ~ We must be careful not to exaggerate the influence of the myths of the Amazons on first century Ephesians, or the regard the Ephesians had for the Amazons. On the other hand, there is abundant evidence (statues and inscriptions) that the Ephesians highly honoured the Imperial family, especially Caesar Augustus (even after he died), and there’s evidence they honoured Androklos, son of the king of Athens, who settled in Ephesus in around 1050 BC and is regarded as a founder of Ephesus.

      Anyway, I agree with Wade where he says the rigid interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12, that prohibits women on the basis of gender alone, is stupid. It does not fit with what the rest of scripture says about women leading and teaching men. Patriarchy, where only men have authority, and women have practically none, is not God’s will for the community of his people. God has authorised some women to be leaders and teachers.

      I have more about Artemis here: https://margmowczko.com/1-timothy-212-in-context-2/

      1. Margaret, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts and insight from history. I really appreciate. Sorry O did not respond sooner. Jenn

        1. No worries. I’ve had a very full weekend with very little computer time myself.

  3. The bible is in part a product of more patriarchal times. I find fault with those that in my opinion read a type of heirarchy into the text that justifies the unquestioning faith and obediance of women to men like the relationship of humanity with God. A father child relationship puts a child in a subservient and reliant position to unquestioningly obey.

    I’d argue that this is against at least Jesus’ teaching, since a large part of his mission was questioning the given religious conventions followed by modern jews that had begun to miss the mark due to blindly following the law with no love or respect for the spirit of the law. In fact, the pharisees/and other sects were unwholesome in Jesus’ eye beause they essentially gamed the system and simply used the role of rabbi or sribe for the earthly power, wealth, and control it gave that person.

    Using the bible to limit women’s role in the Church just so happens to benefit all males and perpetuate patriarchy when patriarchal systems are not laid out by God, but by people purporting to represent him from the crowd of humanity.

    God does not simly lay out how things should be. He gave us free will after all. God wishes us to do the right thing or the right reasons without it haing to be commanded or laid out.

    Treating a woman as you yourself wished to be treated simply supercedes all the old testament limits on female roles via Jesus’ itereation of the Golden Rule. If I wouldn’t subjegate other males and dismiss their talents because of arbitrary rules regarding their roles, then we shouldn’t perpetuate such rules and agree to live by them. It relies on negative stereotyping of women as to what they cannot do well, and in others advocates what women should aspire to be based on what they are supposedly good at. There is nothing spiritual about it.

    Are we to tell a woman talented at football she ought not play it because of her stature? Isn’t her talent obviously God given? Why limit what God has created? The rhetorical quetions i hope highlight that what we humans do is try to eliminate uncertainty out of our relationship with God by trying to infer too much out of the word of God, when common sense and an open mind bely some of the anachrnisms put there by past authors. Just because the Bible is inspired does not mean God meant it to be perfect in the sense of factually or even theologically correct.

    Maybe we were meant to use the brain God gave us and our conscience to work out the inequities we see in the world and not attempt to glean certainty about issues by cherry picking the bible and twisting and turning dubiously relevant passages as if God meant to write a book that could settle any argument with certainty.

    I’m sad beause many people in their desire to have a religion that proscribes everything in their life for fear or lack of interest to figure it out with Biblial principles in mind. They resort to using the Bible as a reference book. The worst phrase is the popular one stating the Bible has all the answers, which is true but not in a literal sense. This produces the shallow questions you see of some very earnest religious people seriously posing questions about whether a hairstyle is proper, or if cufflinks are unbiblical. That is the religious spirit Jesus tried to reform, like the pharisee trying to put Jesus in a catch 22 over dietary law, in which Jesus replied that it is better to be more concerned with what comes out of one’s mouth over the deuteronical dietary proscriptions, meaning critical thinking is involved and mindless following of law is counterproductive to one’s relationship with God.

    But some of the most earnest of us with the text right in front of us thik and act like pharisees in regards to Christianity. We try to out-Christian each other like Jesus criticized some jews would do in trying to outdo each other in doing no work on the Sabbath for instance.

    The subjgation of and the relegation of women to a servant role is not something proscribed in the bible. The Bible is a product of its time and the culture at the time and place it was written was patriarchal, and still is. We don’t replicate slavery just because it appears in the bible. This doesn’t mean it is preferable or correct in our time and place to practice it in modern times. Just because God gave humaity the dominion over the earth does not mean it’s morally o.k. to hunt some animals to extinction or cut down every tree. It’s only greed that makes some Christians make the argument that God giving us dominon means whatever we decide to do with that authority is righteous. The same self-serving sentiment I feel is behind the arguments dominionists use to dictate what are basically hijabs (the strict clothing rules certain ultra orthodox christians that are really into patriarchy are forcing onto their female family members). If it’s so “bad” for Islam why is it “right” or a matter of scriptural preference or interpretation when it’s being done in our society within our faith? What are the real substantive differences between orthodox jews christians and muslims in how they live when they all separate the sexes, add a bunch of rules that make females more property by taking away their own agency and substituting it with either her father’s, her brother’s, or her husband’s? The food laws are kept to varying degrees, with some of the Christian faith arguing it no longer applies while others keep them.

    When we become better than this, we become closer to God. The better I treat others, the better I am treating God. Whatsoever I do upon others, I do unto Him. And unfortunately there are a lot of Christians that are good at being jackasses to Him at their job, at home, and most depressingly in their own hearts. Love should overcome judgment. God told us to leave judgment to him. We cannot Lord over the world with the Bible, nor should we aim to despite how apppealing some Christians think that is. We cannot force Communion with non-believers simply by trying to create a government reflective of Christianity, beause we Christains cannot agree on what that even means. But we can practice the Golden Rule in our daily lives and by that practice we can all hone ourselves as individuals. That alone is better advertisement to others to save souls than the best practied proselytizer could do. The word is out there. Souls will be saved by Christians leading by example, not by trying to politically create a theocracy, if so Jesus would have done it or talked about it and he does neither. The closest thing was the devil tempting him with the power to rule the world, which he saw for what it was and refused.

    If only modern day Christians offered power were so wise.

    1. Hi Christian.

      I especially like your point that patriarchal interpretations of 1 Timothy 2:12 are at variance with the “Golden Rule.”

  4. Hi,

    I too struggle with this particular passage because of how it states that the woman was deceived, which is true, however are men not also deceived presently and in the past?

    The reason I say this is because I was told by a man that since the woman is more easily deceived as per what Paul writes to Timothy a woman should learn scripture under a man and not on her own because she will naturally fall into error. So I found this verse more problematic than it just about being silent and
    usurping authority.

    The entire passage can be such a stumbling block in light of other scripture
    and it seems to be used a lot by men who focus heavily on the authoritarian role of man and sub
    missive role of woman.
    Any thoughts would be helpful on the deception part would be helpful.

    1. Hi Angela,

      The Bible nowhere states that women are more easily deceived than men. The man who spoke to you is not interpreting the scriptures carefully. I find the phrase “she will naturally fall into error” disturbing, harmful, and wrong.

      Eve was deceived, and she knew it. Importantly, she didn’t stay deceived. Furthermore, there are enough biblical examples of men being deceived to show that gullibility is not an exclusively female trait.

      Also, there is a gnostic text which states that the archons (rulers) deliberately deceived Adam, but not Eve. Eve is not portrayed as a transgressor in Gnostic texts, but as a divine-like figure. These ideas may be what Paul is addressing in 1 Timothy 2:14.

      I’ve written more about women being incorrectly typecast as gullible here: https://margmowczko.com/women-eve-and-deception/

      1. Hello again Marg
        I just read your post on whether women are more easily deceived. Which I really liked. But then it reminded me of another verse that I have heard used to show women that women can be more easily deceived. 2 Timothy 3:6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control …
        Do you have any thoughts on this verse?
        Again thank you for sharing your wisdomwith us.

        1. Hi Jen,

          Paul is describing something that was specifically happening in the church at Ephesus. Namely, that false teachers, who were themselves deceived, were worming their way into the houses of “little women” (gynaikaria).

          Paul does not use the ordinary word for “women” in 2 Timothy 3:6. He is specifically talking about silly or weak or young women (gynaikaria). These women may have been idle young women, or widows, of the upper classes (cf. 1 Tim. 5:13-14).

          Paul is certainly not implying that all women are silly, weak, or easily deceived; he is only speaking about the ones who were letting in the deceived false teachers. The sensible women in Ephesus, such as Prisca, were not letting them in (2 Tim. 4:19).

          It is thought that the Chosen Lady lived in Asia Minor, perhaps even in Ephesus. She is especially warned not to let false teachers into her home or house church (2 John 1:10-11).

          I like what Sean du Toit, a New Testament scholar based in New Zealand, has said in an informal online conversation regarding the idea that 1 Timothy 2:14 somehow indicates that women are more easily deceived than men.

          How people could argue that women are more prone to deception, from a letter where the false teachers are men (1 Tim. 1:19-20) and have been excommunicated, is beyond me. The male false teachers have been targeting the women (2 Tim 3:6). The false teachers were the one’s who were deceived first!

          Update: I’ve written about the “little women” in 2 Timothy 3:6-7 here:

  5. So, this passage comes up again. It continues to be a puzzle, it seems.

    I think, Marg, that you have earlier expressed the view that 1 Tim 2:13-14 is Paul’s rejection of the reasons some women in Ephesus had for what they were doing, rather than his own reasons for what he is saying. Some other bloggers are also saying this, and I think it is a view to hold on to. And if so, we can glimpse some more of what the false teaching in Ephesus was about. It must then have been something that runs contrary to what Paul is saying in vv13–14, and at the same time gave some women courage to do things that were a bit overbold.

    The idea that v12 is temporary is, on the other hand, a poor one in my opinion. Basing that on the greek word «epitrepo» seems much too thin to me. And even if it was temporary, it wouldn’t be very egalitarian to shut off ALL women in Ephesus from teaching, although only for a time.

    There is an alternative idea that I think is much better, but which I haven’t seen anyone fully embrace, although several commentators come very close to saying it. It is that the women in v12 are the same as the women in v11, the women who are learning. Two reasons for this:
    1) v11 alone is too short as a discussion of women who are learning. Paul usually takes some time to talk through a topic. Admittedly he is much more brief in this letter than in some others, but the one short sentence in v11 is too little, even here. This is also supported by a «but»/«however» (greek «de») in v12, indicating that he is somehow going on from v11.
    2) The «but» in v12 also sets up a contrast between v11, or something in it, and the teaching and authenteining in v12. At the same time the teaching and authenteining is also contrasted with the quietness in v12. This seems to me to be most naturally understood as a single contrast, and the quietness in v12 as the same as the quietness in v11. Then, since the quietness in v11 is the quietness of women who are learning, so is the quietness in v12. The teaching and authenteining in v12 is then contrasted with the quietness of women who are learning. And isn’t the teaching and authenteining then also OF women who are learning? It seems so to me. Paul is mentioning quietness again in v12 in order to say more specifically what in v11 he is contrasting; that would otherwise have been rather ambiguous.

    To also say a little about the meaning of «authentein»: There are three studies by Albert Wolters, of which I think you have read at least one, but perhaps not all three. Particularly the last one, entitled «AN EARLY PARALLEL OF αὐθεντεῖν IN 1 TIM 2:12», broadens the view of what the word can mean. As I understand it, «authentein» can be taken to mean something like ‘act as master’ or ‘act as superior’, where what one is master or superior in terms of can vary. It can certainly be in terms of authority, but also of influence, or of knowledge and/or skill. And I believe it is about knowledge here, rather than authority. Two reasons for this:
    1) There is nothing further about authority in the context, but lots about knowledge: learning, teaching, Eve’s deception.
    2) As far as I understand, the greek word «oude» hints that teaching and authenteining should be some kind of natural pair. And this is much more the case if «authentein» is about knowledge. If we read «authentein» as something like «act as knowledgewise superior», then that makes a VERY natural pair with «teach».

    As I see it then, one can paraphrase vv11–12 as something like this:
    A woman who is learning the basics of the christian faith should be peaceful and fully willing to learn.
    For such a woman to teach, however, is something I do not permit, or to act as knowledgewise superior to a man, instead of remaining peaceful.

    1. Hi Knut,

      Yes, persistent, incorrect interpretations of 1 Timothy 2:12 aren’t going away anytime soon. This one verse keeps being brought up in discussions about women in the church. It is a real sticking point for some, even though it does not represent the whole counsel of scripture.

      I suspect that verses 13 and 14 are correcting a syncretistic (or, pre-gnostic) heresy that was being taught in the Ephesian church: that Eve came first, and Adam was the one who was deceived. We have Gnostic texts which say as much. I do not necessarily think that a woman was teaching this heresy, but it may have been what a woman (or women) believed. I do not think verses 13 and 14 contain reasons a woman cannot teach, etc, a man.

      I don’t say that the word epitrepō necessarily gives the meaning that verse 12 is a temporary prohibition (at least I hope I don’t). I do, however, believe that epitrepō indicates that verse 12 is an ad hoc regulation for a specific situation, and is thus limited in scope, but not necessarily temporary in scope. Epitrepō is not the word usually used for introducing a universal principle or a “best practice” instruction (e.g. Jesus’ concession on divorce).

      I’ve read Wolters’ “A Semantic Study of authentēs and its Derivatives”, Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 1/11 (Spring 2006) 44-65. And I’ve read “Authentēs and its Cognates in Biblical Greek”, JETS 52/4 (December 2009) 719–29.

      I looked just now for the third paper, and found it: “An Early Parallel of authentein in 1 Tim 2:12″, JETS (December 2011) 673-84, here. Thanks for letting me know of a third paper!

      I like your interpretation. It’s plausible. My interpretation is here:

      I agree that “in quietness” is a key phrase in 1 Timothy 2:11-12. It even forms a nifty chiasm:

      A γυνὴ ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ μανθανέτω ἐν πάσῃ ὑποταγῇ·
      X διδάσκειν δὲ γυναικὶ οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω, οὐδὲ αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός,
      A1 ἀλλ’ εἶναι ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ.

      Paul clearly wanted a certain woman (or women) to settle down.

      Thanks for your comment. Some interesting, new things for me to think about.

  6. Marg,
    We are one body in Christ Jesus, the church, both women and men and we all have a responsibility to love each other as God loves us.

    The Bible is also very clear on how a woman is to love and honor her husband and how the husband is to love and honor the woman; it is also clear on how we are to love all, even sinners.

    However Paul in context is very clear in relation to his message and meaning regarding women in the church; I highlight the very next passage.

    1 Timothy 3
    1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)

    I would note that in 1 Timothy 3:1 Paul dose not say “if a man or women desire the office of a bishop” he clearly refers to the man only in the Bishops/Pastors role.

    A man is also to rule his own house, he is to love his wife as he loves himself and he is to live Godly.

    I do not always understand all things written in the Bible but I trust God and his wisdom; it is very clear that Eve was deceived but Adam was not; It is also clear that this was is important enough that Paul warned the body of Christ in scripture.

    All Protestant reformers taught that the Bible alone is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge; we do not go outside of the Bible to justify our position.

    I do not wish to be rude but this is a sideshow to the real Gospel and mission of the church, the Protestant Church is in great danger and yet we are neither hot nor cold on the matter, we are lukewarm; and we dishonor all of our brothers and sisters in Christ who gave their life for the Gospel of Christ if we fail to defend the Gospel of Christ.

    In the later days we are told that the danger to the church comes both from outside the church and from within, those who profess to have our faith but who are in fact enemies of the cross.

    Just another opinion for consideration.

    1. Hi Jeff,

      I know you mean well, and that your English translation may seem clear to you, but the original Greek of 1 Timothy 3:1 is a little different. There is no word for “man” in this verse. The Greek word used in verse 1 (tis) means “anyone” or “someone” or “a certain one”: “If anyone desires overseer-ship, s/he desires a good work” (literal translation). There is no word for “man” and there are no masculine pronouns (in the Greek) of the entire passage of 1 Timothy 3:1-7, with one exception.

      The Greek word for “man” appears only once in verses 1-7, and this is in a common Greek idiom which is not gender exclusive. 1 Timothy 3:1-7 is not clear as you seem to think.

      1 Timothy 2:12 is even less clear. What does authentein mean? And is it tied to didaskein? And why does Paul use the singular for “woman” and “man” in verses 11 and 12, but the plural in previous verses. Could Paul be talking about one particular couple in the church at Ephesus? And why doesn’t he use the usual language that is typical in his other instructions and commands.

      It is clear that Eve was deceived. It is far from clear that her deception is a reason for banning every woman, for all time, from teaching any man.

      What the about men mentioned in this article? Where they led astray by the advice or leadership of Deborah, Abigail, King Lemuel’s mother, the Wise Woman of Abel Beth Maacah, Huldah, Esther, Apollos, etc? No. In fact, in some instances, they and their whole communities were saved because of the advice and actions of these women.

      These women are biblical examples, and, as you say, we must not go outside of the Bible to justify our position.

      Here are some other instructions and pieces of advice from the apostle Paul that are clear. We know the vocabulary, and there is nothing tricky or ambiguous about the grammar in these verses.

      I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling (1 Tim. 2:8)
      Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good (1 Thess. 5:19-21).
      Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss (1 Thess. 5:26).

      Do you always raise your hands when you pray? Do you encourage spirit-inspired, sound prophesy in your church and home? Do you always greet your brothers in the Lord with a kiss? It is amazing how many people do not follow these clear instructions from the apostle.

      God has entrusted the real gospel and mission of the church to his sons AND his daughters. I would be very wary about silencing a Deborah or an Anna or a Priscilla.

      1. Marg,
        I love your response here. Thank you. I read all 5 parts of https://margmowczko.com/equality-and-gender-issues/1-timothy-212-in-context-2/
        it was so helpful and insightful. I appreciate all your hard work in researching and doing your best to bring the bible in context for better understanding. I don’t think this is considered going outside the bible. We can’t fully understand without it.

        1. Thanks Jenn,

          Let me share some examples of background information being used to better understand New Testament letters where we only hear one side of the conversation.

          Paul Trebilco recently delivered a lecture on The Letters of John and the Cult of Artemis in Ephesus.”

          Clinton Arnold reckons that Artemis and other “powers” are behind the “powers” frequently mentioned in the letter to the Ephesians.

          And several scholars suspect that Artemis may be, at least in part, behind the heresy that Paul alludes to in 1 Timothy.

          Background info is helpful, and even vital, in understanding the context of the books and letters of the Bible.

          Having said that, the article on this page is all about what the Bible says. It doesn’t go outside of the Bible at all. 🙂

  7. Marg,

    God forbid that I would seek to silence any Godly woman from contending for the faith I would exhort her and support her, but in context this is not what Paul is saying, Paul is very clear in his message regarding pastoral roles.

    Neither you nor I are Greek scholars, so talking about the Greek is of little value as we are in turn reliant on others for their opinion / interpolation.

    You would be aware that no one alive today has ever seen the original Greek manuscripts; we only have copies of copies of the originals, whether they are the Alexandrian text line or the Syrian text line. Both you and I depend on the integrity of our English translation and the Holy Spirit to guide us when reading Gods word and taking it to heart.

    Also noting that there are many Greek texts that the numerous translations of the Bible are based on. and they are not all the same; Some of these manuscript versions lean toward a gender neutral Bible; But this is not the position of our Protestant for fathers (the founders of the Protestant Faith) who also understood Pauls message in the same context that I am understanding the message, of this early Protestant position there is no doubt.

    As Christians we are to love and exhort each other and pray for each other, so I pray my word are taken with brotherly love. Words on a page can be taken contrary to their intent, as Christens we grow daily. Let us fight the good fight of faith so that we may lay hold of the gold crowns that await us.

    Jude 1:3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

    1. Hi Jeff, you can only please speak for yourself. You clearly have no idea about my education, specialisations, or work.

      I read Koine Greek every day, including the Greek New Testament. (I also read ancient Greek papyri and manuscripts, including ones that contain books and letters of the New Testament, etc.) I do not depend on English translations, rather I depend solely on the Greek.

      I have no idea what you mean about being “reliant on others for their opinion.” I have not given the opinions of others. I presume that you also have not given the opinions of others.

      Paul doesn’t use the term “pastoral roles” in 1 Timothy 3:1-8. This is a very loose term that covers many activities. Priscilla, Phoebe, Junia, Philip’s daughters, and other NT women engaged in “pastoral roles”. Moreover Ephesians 4:11, which mentions the ministry of functioning as a pastor, is not gender specific. Nowhere does the Bible plainly state that women cannot be pastors, in either Greek or English.

      Like Euodia and Syntyche, I also contend for the gospel (Phil. 4:2-3), and for the faith.

  8. My latest post on my blog discusses women in the clergy and the old debate whether it’s biblical. I will say I don’t believe prophets are the same as ordained ministers and preachers. Not all prophets were leaders and in a position of authority as many priests,kings and leaders relieved on prophets for counsel, guidance and wisdom but in the end they were ones in charge not the prophets. Still good article. God Bless.

  9. Hi CT,

    Some people believe being a prophet was a higher “office” than that of the priests. However, I’m not sure that “office” is the right word.

    Some prophets certainly had a lot more influence than the average priest who was restricted to the day to day running of the tabernacle/ temple, including facilitating the sacrifices. Several prophets, both male and female, were key advisors to kings, generals, and even to the whole nation of Israel.

    Old Testament prophets are not the same as present-day ordained ministers and preachers. But Old Testament priests are even less like Christian ministers and preachers. (More on this here.)

    Old Testament prophets had a verbal ministry; most Old Testament priests had a practical ministry.

    I’m not sure the New Testament speaks about any ministry as being a “position of authority.” God authorises each of us to function in various ministries, but the idea of a “positions of authority” sounds foreign to what Jesus and the New Testament authors say, with the exception, perhaps, of the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. New Covenant ministry involves serving as a servant.

  10. Thank you dear sister Marg for your excellent replies to men and women interested in this subject. Maybe for me being a Greek, living and ministering in Greece, I do not face a difficulty in understanding that a woman believer has God’s permission to minister to the world to be saved and give further guidance to both men and women.

    But I was a victim of false doctrine of all these discussions you and all the rest of those that are interested in the discussion. I always desired to work for God, but the teachings in the churches were an obstacle to my faith and call of God. I left all this behind me having a call to women to find their worth in the Lord, and come out of social and church rejection, and place themselves before the throne of God for direction.

    Doctrines of men have bound woman and prevented them from ministering for the Kingdom of heaven. Jesus have given us His deliverance to loose religious bondage, and instead worship the Father in Spirit and in truth.

    I need prayers for my ministry. Greece may be a European Member but the churches are still in traditional eastern bondage.

    1. Hi Jan,

      I can imagine that women ministers would have great difficulties being accepted by the Greek Orthodox Church.

      I can also imagine that your ministry to the women of Greece is very much needed.

      God bless you and your ministry, in Jesus’ name.

  11. It is important to distinguish the implications to be drawn from the various literary forms used throughout the Bible. Historical, or “narratives” of events that occurred merely state what happened. On the other hand, among many others literary forms, we have “didactic” passages. These are prescriptive and state God’s intended design. Solid hermeneutics will interpret the events of an historical account in light of the prescriptive truth contained in clear statements of God’s intended design.

    When encountering historical narratives, unless the writer of the story explicitly states what God thought of those events, no prescriptive moral implications can be drawn without grave danger. It is impossible for the reader to separate their own culturally-informed or, potentially even worse, errant presuppositions from coloring the implications they draw from the historical passage. The passages used to support this view are outstanding examples of historical narratives.

    Paul’s statement from 1 Timothy should not be discounted. To remove its authority is to place oneself on a “slippery slope” of questioning the applicability of any passage which does not agree with one’s personal views. The only end to such a journey is to blind oneself to all that God says about them and never allow His truth to “transform your mind” (Rom. 12:2).

    While God’s intended design is as Paul has stated, it does not negate the fact that, in the passages cited and in the history of Christianity both ancient and modern, God has used women to achieve His purposes and they have served very faithfully. It is commendatory when women stand up and lead, particularly when there are no men who are willing to fulfill God’s intent; whether that be due to physical absence or spiritual immaturity. In the same way that God used the MURDER of Jesus Christ to save the entire world (Acts 2:22-24), the hardness of Pharaoh heart to display His power (Romans 9:14-18), the rebellion of Jonah to turn an entire city to Himself (Jonah 4:5-11), etc. God displays His power by turning circumstances that appear to fly in the face of His righteous decrees to accomplish His works.

    So I would advocate, if there are men who possess the spiritual maturity to understand God’s word, teach it, and live lives worthy of emulation – they should lead the church as God has directed. If not, God’s truth will carry on through His faithful people, be they men or women. But the men will bear the responsibility either way in that it was Adam God came looking for in the garden after the fall and not Eve (Gen. 3:9).

    1. Hi Michael,

      I’m not claiming that any verse in the (Protestant) Bible lacks authority.

      In regards to your last paragraph: Huldah was a prophetess at the time when Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Nahum, and Habakkuk were alive. Yet King Josiah sent an all male delegation–which included the High Priest (Hilkiah), the father of the future governor (Ahikam), the son of a prophet (Achbor), the secretary of state (Shaphan) and the king’s officer (Asaiah)–to Huldah, a woman, to get a word of the LORD.

      Huldah’s prophetic giftand advice were sought out and heeded. She confirmed the authority of the newly rediscovered ‘book of the Law’, and revival occurred. God blessed Huldah’s authoritative ministry to the king and to the nation. I think we should be very wary about limiting the ministries and suppressing the gifts of God’s daughters, especially on the basis of one verse which I strongly suspect has been misinterpreted by some.

      Rather than discount 1 Timothy 2:12, I am seeking to understand it. I can assure you that, to the best of my knowledge, I have never done what 1 Timothy 2:12 disallows.

  12. Excellent article Marg, I enjoy reading your articles and learning more, about this. Sorry this is so late, but I just read your article today.

    What I find in my researching of this topic and very interesting is that I have yet to come across anyone mentioning or have yet read any article written on what Jesus said on the matter of teaching, regarding who can and cannot teach.

    I’m referring to Matthew 5:1-20. Jesus is speaking to crowds of people (Matthew doesn’t say it’s only a crowd of men, so it’s understood there were male and females in that crowd listening to Jesus). Jesus begins His sermon on the mount, basically explaining how both men and women are to treat each other, He expounds more fully on this further in v. 13 in that our words/actions are like “salt” to the world, and in v.14 He expounds further how our good deeds are like “light” to others. Jesus then concludes that He has come to fulfill the Law and says in v.19 ” Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

    I find this extremely eye opening….and this is what no one talks about…..Jesus says “ANYONE” (NIV, HCSB) other translations say “Whosoever” (KJV) and teaches “OTHERS”. Jesus had the perfect opportunity in front of a crowd of men and women including His disciples, to say “only men are allowed to teach others, not women, they only teach women and children…” if He wanted to and yet……He doesn’t! Jesus chose His words very carefully for a reason.

    The very fact that Jesus purposely says “ANYONE TEACHES” or “WHOSOEVER TEACHES, proves (to me) without a doubt that Jesus is not against women teaching men! I know everyone likes to mention what St. Paul says to Timothy, I have nothing against St. Paul, and I agree with what you have written in this article Marg, but for me…if I want to know the answer, (as others say go straight to the horses’ mouth..) I’m not going by just what the man St. Paul says- even though he was inspired by the Holy Spirit – I’m going straight to the King of King’s mouth as His words to me trump over all men’s words! And this is what I think all complementarian pastors and leaders need to read what Jesus said about teaching, instead of constantly bringing up what Paul said in Timothy.

    Your thoughts, please. – Donna

    1. Hi Donna,

      Matthew 5:19 contains four grammatically masculine words (2 relative pronouns, an adjective and a demonstrative pronoun) in reference to the people Jesus is talking about, but Jesus does not specify a gender of these hypothetical people. So his statements apply to men and women.

      Most Christians claim not to have a problem with women teaching as such, they just have a problem with women teaching men. So I’m not sure that Matthew 5:19 contributes much to this specific issue except that Jesus may be talking about teaching that carries a lot of authority. Nevertheless, it is interesting that Jesus never said anything like “only men can teach.”

      I think when Jesus told the Eleven to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them . . . [and] teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you” the next generation of disciples included both women and men, and included both Jew and Gentile, who were then equipped to make new disciples, and baptize and teach, and keep the process going. That’s not to say that women didn’t teach before.

  13. Hi I was wondering if the idea of women telling the disciples about Christ’s resurrection really counts. Because I think complementarians will argue that these women were not teaching them but just telling them the news?

    1. You may be correct, GeonBeen. But it was arguably the most important, most life-changing news the disciples had heard. This news marked the beginning of a new era–Jesus had conquered death!–and Jesus first entrusted this news to women. Women still have “news” to pass on to Jesus’ followers.

    2. GeonBeen, I’ve had a number of conversations with complementarians, and many argue in exactly what you said…telling news / transmitting information vs teaching. I find that to be stretching the truth, and dismissing the importance of the news. Similar to John 4 with the woman at the well. Her entire village believed in Jesus because of her testimony, and then confirmed what she said when they met Jesus. I say that she was teaching and leading her people. I’ve heard some comps say that evangelism isn’t teaching, that it’s transmitting information.

  14. Marg, what about some other women who instructed men? The queen in Daniel 5 who instructed King Belshazzar to not be afraid, and to ask Daniel for help, because she knew from the past that Daniel had been found with knowledge. Or, the Queen of the South, aka Queen of Sheba, who will judge us? Or Manoah’s wife who instructed her husband on how to raise Samson? Or Zeresh, who conspired with her husband Haman, but later instructed Hamon to abandon his plans to kill Mordecai, “You will not stand against him – you will be ruined (Esther 6:13), (unfortunately for Haman, he didn’t listen to his wife Zeresh and died, along with their children.), Or the chosen lady of 2 John who instructed her “children” aka her followers. Or even Pilate’s wife?

    The more I read the Bible, the more I am amazed that in such a patriarchal time, women had political, ministry, and family clout. The only time I can find where a woman is silenced for teaching or leading is when she is teaching falsely (Jezebel in Revelation 2:20-23), or the female leader (I’m blanking on her name), who led the Israelites into sexual immorality and worshipping Asherah poles, in Kings and Chronicles. Both women who were false teachers received equal punishment as false male teachers (indicating that their words are equal in value, too).

    I think the greatest instructor is the Holy Spirit. “Spirit” in Hebrew is “Ruah”, a feminine word. Conservatives might balk at the idea of the Trinity having femininity, but I think it’s true. The Holy Spirit gives wisdom, also a feminine noun.

    1. Hi Jamie,

      I love the example of Zeresh, but she doesn’t qualify as “godly.” And I may have already stretched the definition of “godly” in other examples in this article.

      I love that the angel went directly to Samson’s mother first. I write about her in this article: https://margmowczko.com/bible-women-with-spiritual-authority/
      But I’m not sure that she instructed her husband. Rather, Manoah asked that the angel also instruct him personally.

      I mention the unnamed queen of Chaldea who gave her husband Belshazzar good advice here:

      I also have articles on the Queen of Sheba, the Chosen Lady, Pilate’s wife and Jezebel of Thyatira (who was given time to repent).

      In this article, I chose women who qualify in some way as godly, and where we have verses that tell us some of what they said to men in the way of guidance or instruction, and also where men took the advice. I didn’t want to stretch my examples too thinly. I wanted them to be believable even to sceptics.

      There is no doubt that some, perhaps many, women in past ages were not as timid, quiet or repressed as many of us have been taught!

      Ruach (רוּחַ), meaning “spirit/wind/breath,” is a grammatically feminine Hebrew noun. (Pneuma, the Greek word for “spirit/wind/breath” used in the New Testament, is grammatically neuter, while paraklētos, also used for the Holy Spirit, is grammatically masculine.) I see no significance in the grammatical gender of these words.

      I don’t think the Holy Spirit is any more feminine than the other members of the Godhead, except for Jesus once he became incarnate. I don’t think God is especially masculine either. I don’t think gendered terms apply in reality to God, apart from Jesus. But God is described with both feminine and masculine metaphors in the Bible. https://margmowczko.com/is-god-male-or-masculine/

  15. […] 1 Timothy 2:12, the Created Order, and Bible Women who Guided Men […]

  16. […] 1 Timothy 2:12, the Created Order, and Bible Women who Guided Men […]

  17. […] 1 Timothy 2:12, the created order, and Bible Women who Led Men […]

  18. […] 1 Timothy 2:12, the created order, and Bible Women who Led Men […]

  19. […] the Bible has enough examples of women with spiritual authority—women who taught, advised, and led men—to call into question the concept of hierarchical authority underpinning complementarianism. […]

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