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Topic 13: 1 Timothy 2:8-15: Part 7: “…permit no woman to teach…”


This is the seventh in a brief series of studies on 1 Timothy 2:8-15.  The writer of 1 Timothy is seeking to apply sanctified pastoral counsel to the Christian community in Ephesus, which is plagued with false teachings relating to the goddess Diana.

The Commission on Theology and Church Relations in its September 1985 document, “Women in the Church,” hears this passage as restricting the pastoral office to males:

◆ “The teaching that Paul forbids women to perform is the latter, namely, that of the formal, public proclamation of the Christian faith … The apostolic restriction of 1 Timothy 2 pertains to that teaching of God’s Word which involves an essential function of the pastoral office” (CTCR-WIC, page34).

◆ “To be sure, if women having a majority on such a panel were to seek to assert their power as women over men, such conduct would be a violation of Christian love, just as it would be for a majority of men to exercise power as men over women in such a situation” (CTCR, “The Service of Women …” 16 November 1994).

◆ “… as long as this service does not violate the order of creation (usurping authority over men)” (CTCR, “The Service of Women …” 16 November 1994).

◆ “Women may not teach (didaskein) men in St. Paul’s use (1 Timothy 2:12).  The Service of Women in the Church (Touchpoint Series).

In response, we conclude this passage from 1 Timothy does not give a universal decree restricting women’s roles in teaching or worship, but rather refers to a process of learning before engaging in such ministries.

(A) “[vs 12] … I permit no woman to teach …”: On what basis do we insist that this refers to forbidding women to engage in public instruction?

(B) Women do teach (Acts 18:26; 1 Corinthians 11:5, 14:26; Titus 2:3-4).  In 2 Timothy 4:19 Paul upholds Prisca who taught Apollos; in 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul reminds Timothy to “entrust to faithful people” (anthropois, not “men” as the RSV has it!) what Timothy has heard from him.

(C) In his letter to Timothy, Paul is concerned about a teaching ministry which is mature in the sanctified Christian life and produces the fruit of the Spirit: “He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil; moreover he must be well thought of by outsiders, or he may fall into reproach and the snare of the devil … The women likewise must be serious, no slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things” (1 Timothy 3:6-7, 12).

(D) In the context of this 1 Timothy 2 passage the issue is poorly instructed women who tend to spread false teaching (compare 2 Timothy 3:6-7 where Paul has the same concern about men!).

(E) “[vs 12] … I do not permit …”: Paul is giving not “a word from the Lord” but a divinely inspired pastoral application of the Gospel to this current situation.

(F) According to Greek grammar, the focus of the sentence falls on the content of the teaching rather than on the women’s ability to teach or on their gender (Perales, Hidden Voices: Biblical Women and Our Christian Heritage, pg. 107).

(G) “ … the verb ‘to permit’ [epitrepo, present active indicative] is written in a tense that implies continuous present action.  To more accurately translate, the verse could say, ‘I am not currently permitting a woman to teach …’ The verb is not written in the command mode.  The command mode [imperative] appeared in the previous verse, where Paul was telling women he wanted them to learn.  But in verse 12, he was telling them he was not permitting them to teach at that time, which implies that those who learned might eventually teach – just not right now” (Perales, pg. 106).

(H) “‘I am not permitting them to teach’ corresponds to ‘women should learn'” (Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, pg. 35).

(I) In Titus 1:10-11 Paul also silences the men for this reason: “For there are many insubordinate [anupotaktoi] men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially the circumcision party;  they must be silenced [epistomizein], since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for base gain what they have no right to teach.” Paul addresses a problem that both men and women bring into the church.

The Commission on Theology and Church Relations interprets the passage differently:

◆ The teaching that Paul forbids women to perform is the latter, namely, that of the formal, public proclamation of the Christian faith.  The word for teach (didaskein) is used uniformly in this way throughout 1 Timothy” (CTCR-WIC, page 34).

(J) A response:  “On the basis of these uses of didasko in the Pauline letters, on what grounds do we insist that the use of I Tim. 2.12 must refer to the public proclamation of the Word in a worship setting?  Of course, Paul does use didasko to refer to such proclamation, but we note two things: in none of those texts does he limit the teaching exclusively to males; second, many of the passages make no clear distinction between public instruction over against private instruction.  I believe with Luther, that our passage may not refer to a formal worship environment at all” (Dinda, “WORD STUDY: 1 Cor. 14:33-35 and 1 Tim. 2.8-12,” pg. 24).

(1) Note also 1 Corinthians 11:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; and 1 Timothy 6:2, 3.  See also 1 Timothy 1:7, 1 Timothy 2:14-15, 2 Timothy 3:15-17, and Titus 3:9 where instruction applies to teaching the Scriptures.

◆ “If the right to vote is a franchise of power and authority, how can the woman who exercises that right in the assembly avoid usurping authority over men, especially when they are in the majority? (1 Tim. 2:12)”  (LCMS Pittsburgh Convention Workbook, page 199 [an argument against women suffrage]).

◆”Priscilla, together with Aquila, took Apollos in and expounded (exethento) the way of God more accurately.  Neither didaskein nor any other closely related word is used (Acts 18:26)” (CTCR-WIC, page 35, footnote 49).

(2) Or, sarcastically: “But isn’t this exactly what Priscilla did in straightening out Apollos (Acts 18:26)?  No, she ‘expounded’ or ‘explained’ (exethento), says the Touchpoint Series.  St. Luke knew the difference, we suppose, even if Apollos and Priscilla didn’t.  And of course, under the influence of direct and inerrant verbal inspiration, he was led to use the exact word to describe the contretemps between Priscilla and Apollos, just so no one in the Missouri Synod would get confused by it later” (Lutheran Forum Letter, July 1995, page 4). (Note: The statement is actually in CTCR-WIC, page 35, footnote 49).

(3) It is human preference, not exegetical soundness, that leads the authors to conclude that these two Greek verbs are opposites, explaining two different educational processes, rather than synonyms.  Webster: “synonym: one of two or more words or expressions of the same language that have the same or nearly the same meaning in some or all senses.”

In the New Testament churches, women do teach publically after a process of learning.