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Topic 10: 1Timothy 2:8-15: Part 4: “Let a woman learn…”


This is the fourth in a brief series based on 1 Timothy 2:8-15.  Paul is seeking to apply sound pastoral advice to a difficult situation in the Christian community in Ephesus.  Because of all the teachings about the goddess Diana, Paul wants the women solidly grounded in the faith so they would not easily be swayed.

(A) False doctrine which appealed especially to women is the problem Paul addresses here: “… swayed by various impulses, who will listen to anybody and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:6-7).

(B) “The learning of wrong ideas and behavior had threatened the faith of the Christian community at Ephesus.  Heretical elders had promoted an officious and intellectualistic piety that had attracted women.  Female believers were learning deceptive teachings.  Those women converted from the Artemis cult brought to the worship setting a noisy boisterousness that did not conduce to learning.  Between their own former cultic patterns of behavior and the encouragement of wayward elders, these women represented a problem for Christian worship done decently and in order” (Gritz, Paul, Women Teachers, and the Mother Goddess at Ephesus, pg. 129).

(C) “[vs 11] …let a woman learn …”:

(1) That the Scriptures counsel women “to learn” is a radical departure from Jewish culture.   This would be new for a Jewish convert: women in the synagogue culture did not engage in formal Scripture study:

(2) The verb manthano “to learn by study.”  “Manthanein takes place when God’s will is learned from Scripture and taken up into one’s own will” (TDNT, IV, 408).

(3) The verb manthano here is a present imperative (manthaneto), which is best translated “let a woman continue learning” (Kroeger, I Suffer Not a Woman: Rethinking 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in Light of Ancient Evidence, pg. 103).

(D) Women were already participating in public worship and teaching.

(1) Otherwise Paul would not have tried to correct the abuses.

(2) Men were the first to assume authority in God’s church, and in other aspects of life.

(3) Women were new to this; when they had “learned” then they would also assume any such positions (Galatians 3:28).

(4) “… let women keep on learning …”:  The contrast is learning as it relates to teaching.  The implication is that women must learn and hold correct content before being allowed to assume a teacher’s role.  Paul does encourage the opposite of synagogue custom: “let women keep on learning.”  This positive position of Paul is often lost in arguments over this passage.

(E) In “1 Timothy 2:9-15  … Paul says, ‘I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man; she must be silent’ (v. 12 NIV).  The imperative verb, however, is in verse 11: “A woman must be taught …[‘… must learn …’]”  The prohibitions cited in verse 12 [to teach and to have authority] follow and are subordinate to it [the learning].  But the problem is that few pause to listen for the reasons given in verses 13 and 14 where Paul tells us why he ‘would rather not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority.’  It is mainly because Eve had been tricked, deceived, and easily entrapped (v. 14)” (Kaiser, “Shared Leadership…” Christianity Today Institute, page 12-I).  In short, Paul uses a biblical example from the Old Testament to illustrate and give an example for his reasoning.  He is not laying down “principles.”

Paul wants the women in the Ephesian congregation to be grounded in the faith before seeking to teach the faith.