5 Reasons to Stop Using 1 Timothy 2:12 Against Women

Gail Wallace

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5 Reasons Stoplight 1 Timothy 212

It baffles me that the #1 search term used to find The Junia Project blog is some version of “1 Timothy 2:8-15”.

Every. Single. Day.

Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. 11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. 1 Timothy 2:8-15 NIV

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.  In spite of the lack of consensus and obvious translation difficulties, many Christians continue to cite portions of 1 Timothy 2 as the foundation for their belief in male-only leadership in the church.

We’ve already posted several articles on 1 Timothy 2 (Lost in TranslationDefusing the 1 Timothy 2 Bomb, More on Authentein, 1 Timothy 2: Paul’s Original Language, Timothy’s Cultural Context, 1 Timothy 2: Ten Talking Points), and there are many excellent books and articles that address the passage thoroughly [1]. I strongly believe that the scholarship leans overwhelmingly on the side of the egalitarian view.

But this old and tired argument stubbornly persists, and readers continue to ask for help responding to it.  While you don’t want to pull out a blog post or a book in the middle of a conversation, it is possible to craft a short response to serve as an effective starting point.

Here’s what that process looked like for me. I started by listing my key objections and the reasons behind them in my own words.

1. “Authority” is a poor translation of the Greek word Paul uses in 1 Timothy 2:12

The Greek word Paul used for “authority” in this passage (authentein) is so unusual compared to his other references to authority that he could not possibly have been talking about normative church leadership structures. It is disappointing that even though the most recent credible scholarship confirms that in Paul’s time authentein referred to an abuse of authority, some prominent complementarian scholars (Wayne Grudem, for example) refuse to correct publications that were written before this came to light. (see the Bible.Translation.Literature website for more on authentein.)

2. Applying 1 Timothy 2:12 literally but not doing the same for the surrounding verses is shoddy hermeneutics.

With rare exceptions, no one teaches that women should be silent or quiet in church. I say rare, because last year at a national conference for Christian counselors my daughter talked with a woman who said in her church women sit in the back and must raise their hand to get permission from a man to speak! And with rare exceptions, no one holds that women are saved in childbearing. Again I say rare – Marg Mowczko notes that Jim Hamilton, an associate professor of biblical theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a preaching pastor at a Baptist Church in the U.S. has stated that “All Women must embrace their role as women by bearing children and, if they do this in faith, they will then be saved.” (Read Marg’s post on Hamilton’s position here.) What does it say about the integrity of your biblical interpretation if you single this one verse out and disregard those around it?

3. Paul’s restriction was given in the context of a personal letter to Timothy giving advice about a specific issue in the church at Ephesus.

There is no command from God here, and no suggestion that Paul was establishing church policy for all time. There is no mention of this in the rest of Paul’s writings, or anywhere else in the Bible for that matter. You don’t have to dig very far to understand why this suggestion was made; it’s evident in Paul’s discussion of false teaching in chapter one. (Bob Edwards has written more about the issue of false teaching in Ephesus here.)

4. Using this passage to restrict women in leadership requires elevating a handful of verses over the rest of Paul’s writing, not to mention the entire New Testament.

When you read all of Paul’s letters and the Book of Acts in one sitting, it is apparent that Paul supported the leadership of women. We see this in a number of churches, including Philippi, Thessalonica, Cenchrae, and Rome. It is baffling to me that some church leaders and theologians give such weight to the 1 Timothy 2 passage when many other portions of scripture support equality. Paul’s practice aside, such a restriction contradicts the teaching of Jesus and the Kingdom of God values he ushered in. What part of Jesus’ statement “it shall not be so among you” do we not understand?

5. Churches find it impossible to put 1 Timothy 2:12 into practice in a consistent or logical way.

There is wide discrepancy in how 1 Timothy 2:12 is applied. I’ve observed that in some churches women can do everything but hold the position of senior pastor. In other churches women can’t even teach a mixed gender high school Sunday school class. Wayne Grudem’s infamous article But What Should Women Do in the Church? categorizes 83 things women can and cannot do in the church, demonstrating how ridiculous applications of this passage can become.

Questions abound. How do we define when a boy becomes a man? What do we mean by teaching? What constitutes authority? For more on the absurdity of trying to implement such restrictions see Laura Ziesel’s post “The Deceived Shall Teach Our Children”.

After reflecting on these points I came up with this “elevator speech”:

“I’m glad you brought that passage up. I’ve studied 1 Timothy 2 and I don’t think it can be used to shut women out of leadership.  Here are some of the reasons:

I’ve learned that “authority” is a poor translation for the Greek word “authentein” Paul uses in 1 Timothy 2:12. It actually referred to an unusual use of power and would be better translated as the “misuse of authority”. Did you know that this is the only time this word is ever found in the Bible? It must have been an unusual problem Timothy was dealing with, most likely related to the false teaching he mentions in chapter one. (based on #1)

Also, applying 1 Timothy 2:12 literally but not doing the same with what comes before (the verse about women being quiet) and after (the verse that says women are saved through childbearing) goes against best practices of biblical interpretation. We have to be consistent with how we interpret a passage. (based on #2)

I think it’s significant that this is a personal letter written to Timothy and not to the church-at-large. Paul is addressing a specific issue Timothy had written to him about. This restriction is not found in any of Paul’s other letters or anywhere else in the bible. So it doesn’t make sense to use this passage to limit half the church from full participation. (based on #3)

Another thing I’ve noticed is that 1 Timothy 2:8-15 contradicts much of the rest of the bible, including Paul’s own writings (those on spiritual gifts and the use of prophecy in worship, for example). They also contradict the record of Paul’s personal practice of partnering with women recorded in the Book of Acts and documented in Romans 16. (based on #4)

On top of all of that, I’ve found that there is no consensus on how or when to implement restrictions on women’s leadership. It seems to be impossible for people to agree on what this actually means for the church. Churches vary widely on what women can and can’t do. (based on #5)

So all things considered, I don’t think 1 Timothy 2:12 supports restricting women’s roles in the church.”

This is not a perfect response, but serves as a step forward in the development of a defensible apologetic for my beliefs. I encourage you to come up with your own reasoned response to passages like this one.

This isn’t rocket science and it’s time to set this one aside – or at least admit that 1 Timothy 2:12 should not be used in the debate.

Women around the world are increasingly done with having their role be a topic of debate. Today they make up a greater percentage of both the nones (people who don’t claim any religious affiliation) and the dones (those who leaving the organized church). At the same time, God is raising women up all over the world today in all kinds of arenas, including the church. In the midst of these conflicting realities, we have the opportunity to be prepared to give a defense for our beliefs.

Will you accept the challenge?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

More Resources on 1 Timothy 2:

Belleville, L. 2005. “Teaching and Usurping Authority: 1 Timothy 2:11-15” in Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy, ed. by Pierce, Groothuis, & Fee. In this classic text, twenty-six evangelical scholars firmly committed to the authority of Scripture to explore the whole range of issues–historical, biblical, theological, hermeneutical and practical – related to women and equality, offering a sound, reasoned case that affirms the complementarity of the sexes without requiring a hierarchy of roles.

Christians for Biblical Equality. Various authors have contributed over 100 articles. Start with these search findings. (Some articles require membership for access, but many are free.)

Mowczko, M. 2009. Blog Series: “1 Timothy 2:12 in Context”. Marg has a number of articles on this passage. Just search 1 Timothy on her website.

Wilshire, L. 2012.  Insight into Two Biblical Passages: Anatomy of a Prohibition I Timothy 2:12, the TLG Computer, and the Christian Church. The author provides insight that the TLG computer, with its data selections from 200 BC/BCE to 200 AD/CE, supports the interpretation of one of the key words ‘authentein’ as ‘committing violent action,’ not ‘having authority.’ It then explores the effect of this interpretation on exegesis, gender pronouncements, hermeneutics, tradition, theology, and relevance. As a supplement, it offers a history of traditional translations, mistranslations, and interpretations. This is the most current analysis on this passage, and directly refutes complementarian interpretations.

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70 Comments

  • Surely somewhere in your list should be a mention of the overwhelming scholarly consensus that Paul was not the author of 1 Timothy?

    • I think there are three problems with this approach: (1) it depends a lot on which scholars you read and view as authoritative, so the range of scholars whom you see as having this consensus may not carry much weight with others – whose scholars they look to may strongly disagree; (2) regardless of authorship, 1 Tim remains within the canon of N.T. Scripture, so its authority still has to be addressed, (and there is still plenty of good & important material in 1 Tim [including 2:8-15 – if properly/contextually understood] so we need to address that); and (3 – related to # 2) this may actually work against egalitarians as it will just reinforce the belief in the minds of many comps (particularly if they have a more conservative, even fundamentalist leaning) that egals are “liberals” who pick and choose which Scriptures to accept and which to dismiss. So better to stick with central issues of hermeneutics and interpretation (history, culture, context, etc.).

      • I agree, Wayne. Regardless of who wrote 1 Timothy, it is a part of the evangelical canon and to dismiss it is not helpful. I appreciate the hard work that credible scholars have done to who how this passage (and the handful of other verses that appear to restrict women in the church) does not dismiss women’s leadership in the church out of hand. Thanks for your thoughtful response and input!

    • I agree with some of your post. Context is key to interpretation. But the way I look at it, is that Jesus had 12 men disciples. 12 tribes which had men and women. So leadership does come down through order. God then Jesus, then the Holy Spirit. Man than women, than children is the correct order. For God created man first, then Eve. I believe what Paul is addressing, is what’s happening at that church, in 1st and 2nd Timothy, was more out of line than other organized churches. You either take Gods word as final or you don’t. I do not believe in picking and choosing verses to live by. I believe in all of Gods word. Not some portions. What Paul said is true and will always be so. Titus 3:10 KJV[10] A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Pauls was not Intending to make Timothy’s church any different, from any of the others. If you believe that was written only to Timothy. To live by, you are badly deceived. All scripture is inspired by God. I don’t think women, should not be in a positions of leadership. But only should follow Gods word. Their where women who were leaders in the Old Testament. Men should not be so prideful about that verse. That their not willing to humbling themselves. Remember Jesus said the greatest of you is a servant….. Husbands love your wives as Christ loves the church. I believe God can use women as well as men. Bu I believe the head of a church should be a man, not a women. Sorry females no offense. 1 Timothy 2:13 KJV
      [13] For Adam was first formed, then Eve.

      • It seems to me that you are saying even though God never says anywhere else in scripture that women cannot be in church leadership, and even though Paul obviously approved of women prophesying in public worship (1 Corinthians 11), and even though the letters to Timothy were addressing a specific cultural situation, and even though the word “authentein” translated as authority in 1 Tim 2:12 is never found anywhere else in the bible, we should still believe that the head of the church must be a man? Paul left the church in Philippi in the hands of Lydia, he sent Phoebe with his letter to the church in Rome, he calls Junia an apostle in Romans 16:7, he writes that everyone has something to share when we come together in worship, and he never restricts any of the spiritual gifts to men only. There is no basis in the Bible for saying that because something was created first it has more standing. Esau was born first, but Jacob received the blessing. David was the youngest, not the oldest. There are more examples, but those should be enough. Sorry, you have not convinced me, and yes, it is offensive to suggest that there is a God-ordained hierarchy in the body of Christ.

        • Please FOCUS on I COR14:34-37 Verse 37 If you love him you will keep his commands.

          Women are obviously called into ministry, never into leadership. REV 22:19

          • Mark, we can’t understand what Paul means in 1 Cor 14:34-37 without reading the entire letter. In chapters 11-14 he is addressing order in worship. So when we get to the verses you want to focus on, he has already given women some instructions for how to behave WHEN THEY ARE PRAYING AND PROPHESYING IN PUBLIC WORSHIP (1 Cor 11:5). And he has already told them that when they come together EVERYONE has something to say (1 Cor 14:26), whether that’s a hymn, a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. So it seems obvious that Paul is NOT saying that women should not speak in church.

            Paul gives three different groups of people instructions in 1 Cor 14 about when to stop talking – tongue speakers, prophets, and wives. See this post for more on that: https://juniaproject.com/on-1-corinthians-14-womens-silence-in-church/

            1 Corinthians certainly doesn’t speak to the issue of women in leadership. You write that women are never called into leadership, but that belief cannot possibly be drawn from the bible, where we find leaders like Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, the Wise Woman of Abel Beth Maacah, Lydia and other house church leaders, Phoebe, Junia, and Mary Magdalene (who early Christians gave the title “Apostle to the Apostles”).

          • Gail, I am replying to your response to Mark on March 10. I will give you Phoebe and Junia, but Lydia was a leader in a group of women (Acts 16:13) and most complementarians will allow women to speak and preach to other women so she is not a good example. The OT leaders you list were leaders before the establishment of the NT church when the rules were different. When you add “Mary Magdalene (who early Christians gave the title “Apostle to the Apostles”)” you are going outside inspired scripture which won’t fly with sola scriptura types.
            I agree that women are unduly limited in many denominations but we have to be careful with the scriptures we use to support a broader work for them.

          • Thanks for these comments, Joe. Yes, I sometimes forget that there are Christians who disregard extra biblical texts and historical documents as having relevance for this conversation. I disagree that Lydia was only a leader in a group of women, since we know that both men and women made up the church at Philippi. We also have several other examples of women who likely led house churches. Also, I also don’t see how the OT leaders I mentioned (and I left out Esther) are not important on this issue. But even if we concede that point, to say that women cannot teach or lead in the church based on 1 Tim 2 and 1 Cor 14 (which is what Mark is asserting) directly contradicts the examples of Phoebe, Junia, Priscilla, and the prophesying daughters of Philippi. It also seems at odds with Paul’s commendations to women in Romans 16, and all of his teaching directed at both men and women. But your caution is well taken.

  • Great explanation and very timely as my husband and I are team-teaching through Philippians in the next few weeks!

  • Thanks you for you voice and intelligence Gail. So many days I ask myself why I pursued ministry when jobs for females in the Church are so very few. So many days I question if I heard my calling correctly because it seems no doors are opening to me. I am over educated and under experienced. I don’t care about making big money ever but it would be nice to make a living wage as most male ministers do. I am really discouraged lately. So just know that your writing gives me a little hope! Keep it up. I know how much work blogging is! 🙂

    • You’re very welcome, Jory. The job market is tough anyway, so it is a complex situation to be sure. I’m glad the writing is helpful, and we so appreciate the way you’ve added your online voice to the conversation. Hang in there! Readers, be sure to visit jorymicah.com

  • Reading a letter is like picking up the phone in the middle of the call. The two parties involved have more information than the listener. Paul wrote this letter in response to a specific situation. The inspiration of the text requires that the interpreter take that situation seriously. What can be gleaned from careful reading? There were false teachers in the church, who happened to be leaders. There were young widows who were traveling from house to house “gossiping”. What was the content of their gossip? It is too easy to think that their gossip was what the neighbors were doing. They were spreading the doctrine of the false teachers, and since they had houses, they were widows with money. I will assume they supported the ministry of the false elders. In that context Paul says, I do not permit a woman to teach. My amplified version would be I do not permit a deceived woman to teach. Now think for a minute. Would Paul permit a deceived man to teach? Of course not, so the issue is the deception and not the gender. Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to replace the false teachers. Chap 3 lays the ground rule for picking a replacement elder. Chap 4 describes their error. Chap 5 describes two classes of widows (this is clearly not something that the modern church deals with – no one would say a remarried widow has sinned), and then describes the process for removing the elders who were teaching false doctrine. Perhaps a little wine to calm the nerves of the youthful pastor charged with removing the elder leaders.

    So the women were deceived, just like Eve. It is curious that when Paul wrote the Romans he said that sin entered through one man. Instead of making 1Tim 2 say that Eve only was deceived, note that the comparison in Timothy is with other women and the comparison in Romans is between Adam and Jesus. When Paul needed a female object lesson he chose Eve. When he needed a male object lesson he chose Adam.

    Finally, and I am not sure why Paul was so excited about this, but part of the problem with the false teachers was that they prohibited marriage. Women who had fallen under their teaching were either not marrying or denying that the were married. So the evidence of turning from the false teaching is that women returned home. 20 centuries before birth control that meant having children but even then they were saved only if they continued in faith, hope and love. (Just like what is required of men)

    • Mik, thanks for this input. There is only so much one can write in a blog post and this background info is really helpful. Yes, the problem Paul was addressing was deception, not women leading!

      • How does the article line up with 1Timothy 3:1-13 describing the qualifications of elders, overseers, and deacons? Notably the “husband of one wife?”

        • Sorry for the delay in moderating your comments and in responding. We had a family wedding on Sunday and are just getting caught up from the weekend events. This is a great question, but I’ll just address it briefly since it is not the focus of the post. As you may know, the male pronouns that appear in most English translations in this passage do not appear in the original Greek manuscripts. They were added “for clarity” by the translators. That leaves just one phrase that might appear to limit the role to men, “husband of one wife”. My understanding is that this is more accurately rendered “one woman man” and was a common expression for the concept of monogamy. Here is an excerpt from a post that summarizes the research on this: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/pauls-qualifications-for-church-leaders/

          “One phrase which does not seem to apply to women is where it says that a church leader should be, literally, a one-woman man (1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:6). This is usually translated into English as “the husband of one wife”. The phrase, a one-woman man, is however an idiom and there are dangers in applying it too literally.[3] Because it is an idiomatic expression, many people have had difficulty explaining and adapting its meaning in the context of contemporary Western church culture, a culture that is vastly different to first century church culture.”

          • Also, women did not have multiple husbands running concurrently whereas men did … so they were making sure that the elder was not a polygamist, rather than making sure he was a man. My understanding too is that there is a difference between man and husband, ana and tis… meaning that ‘if anyone desires the office of a bishop he must only have one wife’… but the first ‘man’ is not man but ‘any person’ and the second ‘he’ is the word for husband.

  • I know that this is sidetracking slightly. However, i invite you all to look up verse 101 of the Gospel of Thomas. Then Google the meaning of verse 101. Here you will find the identity of the image of the RIGHTEOUS GOD as our SAVIOUR here gives us a subtle hint.

    I can’t help but feel that the canonised Christian bible hides certain truths away from people to appease their own agenda especially as regards to the ladies. This however is unjust, it’s neither fair on the ladies or the gents who want to find the true identity and nature of their very being in the sight of the RIGHTEOUS GOD by means of our SAVIOUR.

    We all need to open our minds and test the spirits as we are encouraged to do so.

    For there is nothing hidden that will not be known or brought out into the open. Luke 8:17

  • Hi Gail. Can you also expand on 1 Corinthians 14 as well?

    1 Cor 14:33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

    • JD, that is of course, a topic all of its own, and pastor Mark Kubo addressed it previously here on the blog in detail in this post https://juniaproject.com/on-1-corinthians-14-womens-silence-in-church/

      Basically, I have the same objection to pulling these three verses out of context as I do for 1 Timothy 2:12. For example, in this section of 1 Cor 14 Paul is addressing order in public worship (apparently there was an issue with disorderly worship), and he starts in v. 26 by encouraging everyone to participate: “What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.” So it seems obvious that both men and women were participating in worship. Then he proceeds to put parameters on three different groups: tongue speakers of either sex , prophets, and women. (As you are probably aware, some translations don’t include verses 34-35 since they are not consistently part of the original manuscripts and so thought not to be authentic. Some translations put these verses in brackets to show they are questionable. Other interpreters think Paul was quoting something in those verses, since they are followed up with verse 36 which says basically “what? did the word of God originate with you?” One theory is that women had been disrupting worship by chattering throughout.

      Either way, it seems to me that since Paul gave instructions to women as to how to dress when they were prophesying in public worship in chapter 11, we have to assume the issue he’s addressing in chapter 14 is something different altogether. In addition, like 1 Timothy this is a letter to a specific church at a specific time in history, dealing with specific issues that needed to be addressed.

      What’s your take on it?

      • Thanks Gail.. For years I’ve had a hunger for the truth and in recent years it seems it’s become elusive. It seems our culture has ventured so far from the culture of the first century that the Bible seems errant. With perpetually shifting translations most “scholars” seem to need to justify God’s word by looking into the Greek/Hebrew to understand a section of seemingly contradictory language. If only we could live in his kingdom and understand his ways and let that define our culture. With that said, I posed the verse because it closely related to the original post with very direct language. How then do I believe in the inerrancy of scripture? It seems that clear as day language such as this must be an error, or can’t be understood by just anyone. I love my bridegroom Christ and am a truly frustrated believer in his salvation. It’s a daunting task to have to question every scripture I read as potentially errant. I need to trust the word became flesh and am very discouraged lately.

        • Thanks for your honesty, JD. I think there is reason for encouragement with the newer translations. Improvements in language scholarship and recent archaeological findings are resulting in more accurate translation and we are getting a more accurate idea of what the writers meant. I also think it’s helpful to consider the genre of the biblical material when we’re trying to discern an issue. I don’t think Paul was intending to write a policy manual for the church for all time. When I read his letters it seems he was very intentional about equality among believers – I don’t think it’s unreasonable to question things that don’t fit in with his overall teaching. But you are right that it can be very discouraging – especially for the 60% of churchgoers (women) who find themselves without basic human autonomy in the church. Another thing that has helped me is to filter things through the life and teachings of Christ. He came to save that which was lost, and I view gender inequality as falling into that category of something lost when sin entered the world in Genesis 3. Blessings on your journey of understanding.

        • One thing to realize is that translations are done on a best-effort basis and since humans are doing it, there is no such thing as a translation without the potential for error. In effect, the translators are doing their best to get the reader to understand Scripture as they do, this cannot be helped as they constantly are making translation choices.

          Another thing to realize is that the Scriptures we have are in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek and are ancient texts written in ancient cultures that are very unlike our culture today. This can mean that something that was not very opaque to the original reader can be very opaque to a modern reader.

          For example, 1 Cor was written to the 1st century church at Corinth, it was at least the 2nd letter Paul wrote to them. Furthermore, they wrote a letter to him and also sent a delegation which asked questions verbally of him, we are not sure about any of these items, some can be surmised from 1 Cor but it is quite possible that finding his first letter to Cor or the letter from them to him could offer insights into how to better understand 1 Cor. Also, it is in the form of a letter, which is inherently like reading a transcript of half of a phone conversation; there might be things that the people at Corinth knew about and Paul knew about so that a simple reference would be sufficient for everyone to know what was being written about, but today we do not have that shared context. So we need to be humble.

          • Thanks for that valuable perspective Don. I think we do God a disservice sometimes when we interpret the scriptures from our modern day lens and fail to consider the historical context. Personally, I enjoy the complexity and process of digging into all of that. Well, most of the time anyway!

  • With regard to your point #2, and your comment that “with rare exceptions no one argues that women should be silent”, in the churches of Christ women are not allowed to speak at all during worship services. If baptized men are present (and this can include teen-aged “men”) women may not read scripture, lead singing, pass communion, offer public prayers, make announcements, teach, preach, or make comments. They are allowed to sing because their voices blend in with the men and they are allowed to ask and answer questions during Bible study, but not to teach. Many members would have concern for the souls of anyone who would worship with a congregation that allowed women to speak. For them it becomes a salvation issue. Some progressive congregations are allowing women some minor involvement but in the conservative congregations things have not changed since the 1950s. The understanding is that Paul, as an inspired writer, wrote as God directed him, and since the word of God was delivered once and is unchanging, whatever Paul said must stand forever (except for when he told Timothy to drink wine, or said to give kisses or to hold up hands in prayer or anything else we don’t want to do).

    • I must say that in all honesty, I don’t understand why a woman with a shred of self respect would attend such a church which severely curtails her participation.
      I dread to think of little girls growing up in churches like these. What damage it must do to their sense of self I can’t begin to imagine.
      It grieves me to think of girls and women exposed to such horrific spiritual abuse.

      • yael598, I can agree with you, especially about what it does to self image, but from the point of view of many women in the church, especially older ones, if God the creator says, “Since one of your gender brought sin into this world you women will have to be subordinate to your husbands for the short time you have on earth so that you can live eternally in heaven”, they think it is worth it. The question is, did God really say this? If the answer is in doubt, is it worth the risk to go against the traditional teaching? We have to keep trying to come to a better understanding of scripture so that we can sure that we know what God expects of us.

        • Sad that they also don’t see that a woman was even more instrumental in bringing the Savior into the world.
          It is always worth the risk to go against tradition–especially when tradition doesn’t line up with sound hermeneutics. And as Our Lord said, they have substituted the traditions of men for the Word of God.

          • We really need a LIKE button! Yael, I so appreciate your comments.

      • I just want to say… I grew up in a Church of Christ. Women were not allowed to speak or participate at all in church; exactly as you describe, Joseph.

        I knew what the word “usurp” meant by about 6 years old, and certainly did endure spiritual abuse. Though my case is a bit of an exception — my parents called themselves the “lightning corner” because their more “liberal” beliefs frequently got them into trouble. They taught me to question the things I heard from any pulpit and study for myself. But that church was their community, so they stuck with it for a very long time. With their blessing, I broke away from it when I went away to college. Now, in my late 20s, I’ve just become a board member of my church and also lead in various ministry roles as occasion calls for — songs, teaching/preaching, prayer, communion, all of it! I’m really happy serving in these roles, and have taken them by invitation and with support and affirmation from both genders (including, I am happy to say, my husband, parents, and brother). It breaks my heart to hide my leadership roles from other family members, especially my grandparents, who I am otherwise very close with, and who would absolutely object (and would most likely fear for my salvation).

        One day, I may try to ask them why God would give me the gifts, education, and clear opportunity to meet tangible needs in my church and community if it is against God to do so. Would God would give a person a truck of food and send her among starving people, only to tell her she must not share it, or take “authority” to distribute it in an orderly way… because she has certain body parts and not others? Nobody would argue THAT. But spiritual needs… different story.

        I could say sooo much more, but I’ll leave it at this. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this blog. Thank you Gail and thanks Junia Project.

        • Love hearing this story! So glad you found a community like this. Blessings!

    • I’m jumping in here a little late, but I just found this site! I assume your comments (last sentence) were sort of “tongue-in-cheek” –about drinking wine, kissing, and holding up hands in prayer, and anything else we don’t want to do. No joke, I came from an Anabaptist heritage church where they did, indeed, kiss (men/men and women/women) on the lips, literally, as a Sunday greeting. Most had no problem with wine or any other alcoholic beverage since the heritage was from Europe where it was, and is, common among Christians. (BTW, there’s nothing wrong with the water supply.) I recall one man was picked up by the Feds in my home town for having a still in the barn. I guess it was ok to drink, and it was ok to break the law as well! But never would they hold up hands in prayer or praise! In fact, I NEVER heard a woman pray aloud until I went to college. I was stunned. And I can add a lot of other “nevers”! So-o-o-o-o, in my 70+ years, I’ve come to believe that a lot of what we do is mostly for convenience, out of tradition, and because “we’ve always done it this way”, and some of the more rigid older folks would be highly offended and vocal about any changes. Let’s take formal church membership for example. Chapter and verse, please. What does it profit me, a mere woman? What does it profit anyone? Why do we do it at all? Ah, now I’ve gone to meddling! LOL Blessings…..

  • be baffled no more…before I read your post, the intro surprised me…why are you baffled about 1 Tim 2:11-12? …that is how I found CBE and you and others. Why? Because I was fed up with having the verse thrust at me and just wondered if there was another perspective on it…I and obviously thousands of other women have grown weary of THE INTERPRETATION OF that ONE verse that holds up our debasement and keeps mens’ feet on our necks…(no longer for me), destroys ministries and serves the devil’s desires to silence the Gospel as much as possible..

    • I hear you Judy. Thanks for putting this in perspective. I’ll be glad for the day the tide turns and the traditional interpretation is replaced with a more accurate understanding! Thanks for your input.

  • It is perhaps worth noting that leading scholarship on biblical texts strongly indicates that Paul was NOT the author of I and II Timothy. In all likely hood, there is no discrepancy with Paul’s other writings because he wasn’t the author of I Timothy.

    • Yes, I’m aware of that possibility, but since it’s part of the biblical canon we still have to address it. Do you think that assuming the author is Paul gives the passage more weight in the eyes of conservative evangelicals?

  • Thank you Gail for moving the conversation along. I would like to hear your inclusion of Paul’s foundation for his reasoning. Creation and being deceived was Paul’s authority for his perspective. You did not deal with that. That, if not mistaken, seems to be the root of the issue.

  • Very interesting. I imagine I will come back to this again.

    My view is that if God has given you a gift you should use it. If God has called you to do something then you should do it. If He hasn’t given you a gift or called you to do something, you shouldn’t do it (whatever ‘it’ may be) and at all times we must do or not do with prayer and humility.

  • Well put, Gail. Thanks so much for putting it in such succinct terms. We do get tired of this hackneyed argument, however, it still needs to be put forward, so this is helpful.

  • Reviewing the article by Wayne Grudem (83 things women can or cannot do) reminded me of a comment by Alan F. Johnson (Emeritus Prof of N.T. & Christian Ethics at Wheaton [& editor of “How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership”] – at the 2009 St. Louis CBE conference) that complementarianism results in casuistry. My comment: They set out to “recover” biblical manhood and womanhood but end up “recovering” biblical pharisaism.

    • “Casuistry”… had to look that up. “clever, but unsound reasoning”. Yeah, that’s what I’ve encountered when looking into this. I’ve always been of the opinion that we should be able to read the bible, understand it and put it into practice without having to be a rocket scientist. Therefore I’ve always struggled with the verses that appear to prohibit women, as I haven’t been able to reconcile the practical application of them…. (saying that they can speak, but can’t teach for example.) It’s been freeing, a revelation and a blessing to discover the truth of what the scriptures really say about these things.

      • I agree Pete. Such a prohibition is incongruent with the New Testament ethic.

    • Thank you for this excellent article. Complimentarianism re women and church leadership has several severe and glaring weaknesses. For starters, they cannot agree among themselves just how much authority women should be granted in the church–as well as the home and society. If you read the first comment here (to which I replied), the women in that man’s church aren’t allowed to speak at all unless they ask permission from men first. Others do not allow a woman to be pastor or elder, but she may read Scripture before the congregation (John Piper does not allow women in his church to do so.) The church I used to attend women could not be elders and they couldn’t serve communion, but they served on the church board and had an equal voice in voting. Likewise (to my amusement and annoyance), though they were not allowed to serve communion, they were allowed to prepare it and clean up afterward.
      Second, the cannot agree at what age a boy becomes a man. Some say thirteen, others when he graduates high school, others say when he gets married.
      And as you pointed out, it is the rare church that silences women entirely or preaches that women must give birth in order to be saved. Likewise, we don’t expel women for dressing nicely, wearing gold, or having braided hair. Churches are extremely inconsistent when applying these verses.
      Finally, the vast majority of complementarians will say that women are not inferior, they just have different roles (all of them subordinate to men yet some even deny it’s subordination. I must not be reading the same dictionary as they). However, belief in women’s inferiority has been the norm through the centuries. Not until recently have they introduced the apologetic of “equal in worth, different in function”–and we all know that function is subordinate. They fail to see the logical fallacy of ontological equality and functional subordination when it is based upon one’s sex (or race, ethnic background, etc.)

  • Another explanation of the 1 Timothy 2: 8-15 passage posits that this passage is only about marriage and the words translated man and woman should be translated as husband and wife. The common English Bible, chooses this as the most likely translation. Dr. Gordon Hugenberger of Park Street Church in Boston advocates this position, which he calls the “marital” position. He recently preached five sermons on Questions about the Bible and Women.
    I find some merit in this point of view, which then removes this passage from any doctrine of church polity.

    • Dr. Hugenberger shows that this passage shares many themes and words with 1 Peter 3:1-7. He also maintains that wherever these two Greek words for man and woman are used together in other passages, the passages are about husband and wife.

  • Good points Gail. I have also undertaken an extensive study into these questions myself and have concluded that 1 Tim 2: 8-15 was written in response to a specific situation which existed in the Ephesian church at that time. While the word authentein is unique, Paul was not prohibiting women from “exercising authority”. Importantly, in this passage he’s also not saying that only men can “exercise authority”. Even Wayne Grudem has reluctantly conceded that authentein conveyed certain nuances of meaning even though he diminishes this concession by concluding, “… but it is difficult for us to say what those might be” (See “Countering the Claims of Evangelical Feminism – Biblical Responses to the Key Questions”, Multnomah Publishers, Colorado Springs, Colorado, p. 196).

  • Maybe I havent listened enough to both sides of the argument, but the best reason Ive heard so far against women having authority over men is by Dave Pawson, which basically boils down to “their emotions can get in the way”. There may be some truth in it, but its argued entirely from a secular viewpoint.

    • I have noticed that frequently some men’s emotions get in the way also, especially when their authority is challenged by either male or female.

      • LIKE to Sandra’s comment. I and my wife have been the targets of such irrational emotions of male church leaders when I dared to publicly endorse an egalitarian Bible article on Facebook; we until then had been leading worship music in a small country church but I was dismissed for that “cause” and she was dismissed simply because she was my wife! [Thus proving their misogyny!]

        • Thank you, raswhiting! Another thing I have seen over my lifetime (75 years) is some of the worst forms of abuse, sexual and otherwise, have occurred in Christian organizations, both church and school, where male only leadership was in place.

    • How many men lift up Holy hands in prayer without anger or disputing?

    • Pete Hall! Puleeeze! This very tired argument needs to be silenced once and for all. Emotion is not crying or weeping but is described on Wikipedia as the following:

      “Affection Anger Angst Anguish Annoyance Anxiety Apathy Arousal Awe Boredom Confidence Contempt Contentment Courage Curiosity Depression Desire Despair Disappointment Disgust Distrust Dread Ecstasy Embarrassment Envy Euphoria Excitement Fear Frustration Gratitude Grief Guilt Happiness Hatred Hope Horror Hostility Hurt Hysteria Indifference Interest Jealousy Joy Loathing Loneliness Love Lust Outrage Panic Passion Pity Pleasure Pride Rage Regret Relief Remorse Sadness Satisfaction Schadenfreude Self-confidence Shame Shock Shyness Sorrow Suffering Surprise Trust Wonder Worry Zeal Zest”

      Have you ever known men to be overtaken by any of these EMOTIONS, more than women? Of course you have!…anger, annoyance, contempt,disgust, hostility, loathing,rage,or any other emotions? I find that these emotions are generally more pronounced in men than women and that emotionalism has been crudely defined for too long as being a female trait. I have seen male “Euphoria and Excitement” at sports events that gets right out of control and male “Loathing” that thinks nothing of casting 1 Tim. 2;11-12 in my teeth because I don’t agree with something that was said. (something that men do not do to each other). What is the label “Jezebel” voiced about women who are courageous enough to think but “Anger” at the nerve of some woman to actually speak her mind aloud or to dare to question some decision that was made by a council of men only.

      Please, don’t EVER AGAIN bring up the argument of emotionalism in women. It is faulty and illogical and RUDE and guaranteed to create emotions in women that are usually more pronounced in men.

      By the way, crying and weeping are evidence of the emotions of ‘Sadness and Grief’ and are the state of mind of many women who are tired of being misunderstood, demeaned and debased as a way of life.

      • Hey Judy, perhaps you misunderstood me. My point was that it is clearly a poor argument, meaning all other arguments I’ve read are inferior even to this!

        • Haha! Thanks for explaining that Pete! Sometimes it can be hard to catch “tongue-in-cheek” nuances in the online environment 🙂

  • Thank you! It drives me nuts when people bring this up. When I was studying for my undergrad in theology we had a formal debate about this, and it got really heated. At one point I asked the complementarians if they required women to wear head coverings (1 Corinthians 11). Crickets. Total crickets.

  • I usually say: If you can explain verse 15 so that it’s consistent with Paul’s teaching on salvation by grace through faith, then I might concede you have a point about verses 11-14. And if you can’t, then there’s something going on in this passage that we don’t fully understand.

  • A fantastic summary of research related to this topic. Thank you so much Gail!

  • Great article–it’s good to remember also that Ephesus was the seat of the Artemis cult and most likely some new converts still retained some of their old beliefs and were mixing them with the gospel

  • Excellent short summary. Well done, good and faithful servant.

  • thanks for the five points, Gail, and especially for the elevator talk summing them all up. I also think it’s telling that Paul says “I” when he talks about not permitting things. He did not say God doesn’t allow it, but himself. It reminds me of 1 Corinthians 7 when he gives his own personal marriage advice.

    • As I see it, Paul is writing as apostle to the gentiles to churches he founded, which is a lot more than just his personal opinion.

      The way I read Paul in 1 Cor 7 is he is pointing out what Jesus said and also what Jesus did not say, but he is saying what he wrote with his own authority, which carries the authority of Jesus as Paul is an apostle. In other words, Paul is discussing something that Jesus did not discuss, but that is because it did not come up in a Jewish marriage context, but does in a gentile marriage context. So it ends up being transcultural.

      The way I read Paul in 1 Tim 2 is that he is speaking to a local situation at Ephesus. Obviously, that exact situation is not likely to happen today, but there are principles that can be extracted and applied today. For example, when you have been used by God to found a church and have remotely directed someone to learn something because they were deceived, they should be doing that and may need to step down from any teaching ministry while learning the truth.

  • Thank you, Gail! Love this concise response.

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