From the mailbox: “Just wanted to say thank you for your article on 1 Timothy 2. It was a great reference for me as my 13 yr old daughter asked me about it when she read it during her devotions. I was not sure how to respond to her until I found your article. Thank you!” God Bless, Brian. As long as 1 Timothy 2 continues to be used to restrict women from fulfilling their call to discipleship we will continue sharing good scholarship on this passage. Today’s “long form” post is by seminary professor Patrick Franklin. In it he identifies 3 general reasons and 6 specific problems with using the passage in this way. This is our most comprehensive post on 1 Timothy 2 to date – be sure to bookmark it for further reference.
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They are the verses of Scripture used most frequently to silence women in the church: 1 Timothy 2:11-12. I remember reading them as a 26-year-old when first contemplating my call to ministry. God’s voice had been clear, but those three short sentences were not; “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit her to teach or have authority over a man. She. Must. Be. Silent.”
I’d sat there reading the passage over and over; trying to find something I hadn’t seen before. The black and white lettering seemed so stark, so clear; so… black and white. Why would Paul say such a thing? In my church, Paul’s instructions were taken literally. Women weren’t permitted to speak whenever men were present. They couldn’t lead, teach or even pray. Growing up, those words hadn’t particularly bothered me, but now they smarted like lemon juice in an open cut. No matter how I read them, the conclusion was still the same – I couldn’t follow God’s call. As a pastor today, it’s obvious that my understanding of those few verses has long since changed…
Hundreds of pages have been written on this chapter, with almost as many interpretations, proving this to be one of the least understood and most contested passages of all time. Yet many Christians continue to cite 1 Timothy 2 as the foundation for their belief in male only leadership in the church. In today’s post Gail shares her “elevator speech” about why we need to stop using this passage in the debate.
Throughout history, the church has been characterized by a male-dominated social hierarchy. This worldview has been so pervasive that some even consider it to be “God’s created order.” In light of the prevalence of this pattern, some people have asked me, “Has there ever been a female-dominated culture?”
A 1st century B.C. historian by the name of Diodorus Siculus provides us with the following information:
“Beside the river of Thermadon, therefore, a nation ruled by females held sway, in which women pursued the arts of war just like men…. To the men she [the nation’s Queen] relegated the spinning of wool and other household tasks of women. She promulgated laws whereby she led forth the women to martial strife, while on the men she fastened humiliation and servitude.”
1 Timothy 2:12 continues to be an obstacle that prevents churches from moving toward a more robust theology of women.
In my recent post on 1 Timothy 2:12, discussion about the word “authentein” (often translated as authority) was especially rich. Here are some highlights:
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;[b] she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one who was deceived, it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But […]
In Lost in Translation, Part 1, Bob showed that some words in the Bible are translated differently when they refer to women as opposed to when they refer to men. Case in point: Phoebe’s depiction as servant and helper rather than minister and leader. Today he addresses the impact of translation on our understanding of […]
Ephesians 5:21-33 is often cited as a proof text to endorse male leadership in the home.
In this text, wives are instructed to submit to their husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. Pretty clear, right?
Well, perhaps not. As with the other passages, we need to consider the broader context to discern what’s going on.
The most important thing to notice is that the relationship between husbands and wives is not the main theme that Paul is addressing.
From the mailbox: “I’m leading a discussion for our small group at church about the difference between the egalitarian and complementarian views of women in church leadership and looking for a video to show…Any help you can give is much appreciated!” After sending this reader some ideas we set out to find more options. Here are 20 free audio (A) and video (V) resources that present biblical gender equality (egalitarianism) in a clear, compelling way, have high production quality, and are available for free online. You’re welcome!
Certain passages in 1 Peter are sometimes used to support the idea of hierarchy in Christian marriage, but a closer look reveals that this letter is one of the strongest biblical commentaries on the injustice of such a model. In today’s post, Heather Celoria lays out a convincing argument that “In the same way” that all believers are being urged to submit to governmental authority, wives are being encouraged to suffer in an unjust hierarchical institution for the sake of Christ.
It wasn’t until I started attending a private Christian school as a 12-year-old that I became aware of the spectrum of views regarding the roles of men and women in the church and in the home. In seventh-grade Bible class, I was taken aback to learn that some Christians believe that the roles of teaching and authority in the church, and the sole leadership role in the home are reserved for men only. A small number of my classmates and I were more interested in carrying on the lively discussion than others, so our teacher agreed to mediate a debate on the issue outside of class time.
Both egalitarians and complementarians try to grapple with Paul’s words in Galatians 3:28 in their own ways. However, sometimes we do not look closely enough to see how this verse fits into Paul’s logic in Galatians. In part, this is because the traditional interpretation of Galatians (at least among Protestants since the Reformation) has been that Paul is arguing against works in favor of grace.
In Part One Rebecca wrote about her experience of reading the ESV translation of the Bible in a month, and the impact of realizing that the Greek word “adelphoi” had been intentionally translated as “brothers” rather than as “brothers and sisters” 135 times with the following footnote added: “Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek […]
In the end, you see, it’s not about effectiveness, although adding women to your church board will certainly have an impact on that. It’s about justice and about righting what is wrong in this world. It’s about faithfulness – being faithful to the ethic and value system of the Kingdom of God.