thanks for the email. I appreciate you writing in and its great to see that you
have used the site for 4 years. Great! Hope it has helped.
Concerning your question, it is true that 1 Tim 2:11-15 is a tricky
passage. But we can make some sense from it when a few facts are taken
into account. I'm going to quote a couple of Christian teachers that I
appreciate on this if that is ok. I'll highlight a few of their points
which I think will help.
First off is Ray Stedman on the first
part of the passage:
"Let a woman learn in silence with all
submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over
men; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and
Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a
transgressor. (1 Timothy 2:11-14 RSV)
Here is the area of great
controversy: "What part can a woman play in a church service, in its
leading, its speaking, and its teaching?" According to this
translation, women should be "silent" in church. That word occurs
twice in this passage: that a woman should "learn in silence" (Vs.
11), and, she is to "keep silent" (Vs. 12). I have been in churches
where this was taken so literally that women were actually prohibited
from even saying "Hello" to anybody in the auditorium; they could not
even open their mouths, literally, when they entered into the
sanctuary or auditorium.
But that is obviously a very extreme
and wrong translation. The reason I say that is because the
same word that is translated "silent" here occurs also in adjectival
form in Verse 2 of this same chapter. There we read that we are to
pray for "kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a
quiet and peaceable life." The word "peaceable" is the same word which
is translated "silent" here. But surely Verse 2 does not mean that we
may lead lives of absolute silence. It clearly means that we are to
live an undisturbed life, i.e., without a great deal of hassling,
etc., but a "peaceable" life. That is a good translation for this
word, which, if carried over here to this section we are studying,
changes the thought entirely.
Furthermore, if you look
at Second Thessalonians 3:12, the apostle uses this same word again.
He says of certain persons who were busybodies, "Now such persons we
command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work in
quietness." There is the same word which is translated silent here.
Paul is not telling people to work silently but to be peaceful about
it, to not make a big to-do about it, to work privately, without a lot
of public notice. So when we read this translation in that sense, then
all that Paul is saying is, "Let a woman learn in a 'peaceful'
way; she is to keep herself 'peaceful' and 'peaceable.'"
What Paul is really talking about, of course, is her attitude.
Just as he has all through this section, the apostle is dealing with
the attitudes which men and women are to have when they pray. Women
are not to have an attitude of argumentative aggressiveness,
assertiveness, or stubborn insistence on having their own way or their
own view recognized. Rather, their attitude is to be one of
reasonableness, patience, and a willingness to listen to others.
Now when Paul says, "let a woman learn in peace [or peaceableness]
with all submissiveness," he does not mean to imply that women are
always and only to be the learners, while men are always and only to
be the teachers. These are very artificial understandings of this
verse. Rather, he means that when women are learners, they are to
learn in a spirit of quietness -- as are men. But women are not always
learners. We have a great many well-taught women in our congregation
here, some of whom have learned a lot more than many men have. (In an
ultimate sense, of course, all Christians are always learning and are
always learners.) All the apostle means by this is that when women are
in the role and position of learners, they are to do so without
aggressive reaction and challenging in a loud and assertive way. (It
may be that this reflects something of the cultural pattern of
Ephesus. In those great Greek cities women often participated in
government. They perhaps carried this over into the affairs of the
church and were aggressive and vociferous about their points of view.
This is what the apostle is correcting here.)
however, are the key verses:
I permit no woman to teach or to
have authority over men; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed
first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived
and became a transgressor. (1 Timothy 2:12-14 RSV)
As we have
already seen, this is not an absolute prohibition against teaching.
Paul does not say, "I permit no woman to teach, anywhere, anytime, to
anyone, period!" -- although this passage has been taken to mean that.
It is clear from other passages in the New Testament that
women did teach. In fact, in his letter to Titus, Paul tells the older
women to teach younger women how to love their husbands and rule their
children, etc. So women were expected to teach. Also, there are
instances in Scripture where women taught men.
notable case was when Aquila and his wife Priscilla took Apollos, the
eloquent orator of the early church, aside and instructed him further
in the doctrines of Jesus. Priscilla is linked with her husband as one
of those instructors. So clearly, women did teach. Paul is not saying
they cannot teach, period.
The key to this passage is the
word translated, "to have authority over." It governs both the
teaching and the attitude of the woman. This Greek word, authentein,
means "to domineer, to usurp authority, to take what is not rightfully
yours," and to do so (is the implication) by the process of teaching.
In other words, women are not to take over in a church and become the
final, authoritative teachers.
Many churches today are
unbiblical in that they have a single pastor or a single elder in
final authority. The churches in the New Testament knew nothing of
that. They always had pastors (plural) and elders (plural). No one
person was ever given a final voice of authority. Elders reached
unanimous decisions after much prayer and deliberation as to what the
final teaching of the Scriptures meant. It is that role which is
denied to women by the apostle here.
There are two reasons why.
Notice that Paul does not take these reasons from culture, but from
creation. This is a very important point. Many of the comments you
read on this passage will make it appear that Paul is prohibiting
women from this kind of authoritative teaching because of the cultural
patterns of that day. That is not true. Paul says there are things
that stem right from creation that are different about men and women,
and which have application to this problem here.
One: "Adam was
formed first, then Eve." That is all he says, but evidently that prior
creation of man before woman is very important in his mind. In the
account in Genesis it was obviously also important in the mind of God.
He deliberately formed a male first and gave him a job to do before
the woman ever came along. Adam may have been living for a
considerable period of time before Eve was taken from his side and
brought to him. The task Adam was given was to name all the animals,
which means that he was involved in a research project. He had to
investigate all the animals, because in the Bible names reflect
nature. This was a long task, as there were many animals (later, the
ark was filled with them).
So Adam had a large task at hand.
How long he took we do not know, but we do know that while he was
working at this task, he was looking for something; Scripture tells us
he was searching. He noted that the animals came in pairs; that there
were two kinds of each species -- a male and a female kind -- and that
they seemed to belong together. He was looking for that for himself
all through creation. When he had finished he had not yet found
anything to correspond to himself.
At that point God performed the
first surgical operation, complete with anaesthesia. He put Adam to
sleep and took a rib from his side, made of it a woman, and brought
her to Adam. The first word Adam said was, "At last!" (Men have been
saying that about tardy women ever since!) But what Adam meant, of
course, was, "Finally, I have found that which completes me,
corresponds to me, is equal with me, is sent to help me fulfill the
task which God has given me to do."
The implication the apostle
seems to draw from this is not that men are always the leaders
(because I do not think they always necessarily are), but that when
they lead they are to do so in a certain "male" way, while women, when
they lead, are to do so in a certain "female" way. The two complement
one another, but that peculiar quality which is given to the male is
that of initiation. That is why he was sent first into the world; he
had something to do first.
The remarkable testimony of history is
that males have a strange restlessness to discover, to explore, to
climb to the highest mountain, to plumb the depths of the deepest sea,
to get out into space, to find something. Very rarely do you find
names of women among the great explorers of history. It is almost
always men who do so, because that is their nature. Occasional
individual examples of women who have an urge to explore may be found,
but in general this is not true.
Paul carries that over into the
church. He says, in effect, that in this realm of discovery, of
investigation into the mind and the thinking of God, and the hidden
mysteries of Scripture, the male is the one who is to make that
initial venture. The woman is to be there to fulfill, to console, to
comfort, to complete. Women do have a part in this, but in the
ultimate role of decision making in the realm of theology the male is
given this task.
Paul's second argument comes also from the
difference created in nature. He says, "Adam was not deceived, but the
woman was deceived and became a transgressor." Paul implies that the
reason woman was deceived was because her nature made her more
vulnerable in this area.
We ought to remember that Adam was more
culpable, he was a worse sinner than Eve, because, not being deceived,
he still deliberately sinned, while Eve thought she was doing the
right thing, something which would benefit her husband and herself.
The apostle seizes on this as an indication of a difference between
man and woman, suggesting that this is not a matter of inferiority at
all, rather, it is just a difference.
It is the glory of woman that
she is more responsive than man to what is around her. That is what
makes life beautiful. How dull and cold and barbarous life would be if
only cold-blooded men were here to confront the world of creation!
Women add that quality of tenderness, softness, empathy, sympathy and
comfort to the world. They add something that no man can give, and
yet, because of that role in life they are prohibited from making
final decisions in the church. Paul is not talking here about secular
life. He is talking about the church and of this final role of
investigation of the mind and thought of God.
The difference Paul
is referring to is the difference between a knife and a fork. They do
not perform the same functions, yet we use them at the same time while
we are eating. But we do not insist that they be employed the same
way. (Although some people do use knives to pick up food. I remember a
little jingle that goes:
I eat my peas with honey,
done it all my life.
It makes the peas taste funny,
keeps them on the knife!
I have met people who do eat
their peas with their knife, but that is not what knives are for;
forks are for that.) Yet we do not get upset because people use their
knives and forks in distinctive ways. We do not claim the knife is
inferior to the fork or the fork is inferior to the knife. Neither
should we with men and women. They are made to do different things.
Today, after a lot of discussion and controversy in this
whole area, even secular thinking is coming around to recognizing that
there are these distinctive, created differences between men and
What the apostle is saying, then, is that women
are not given the role of final decision on doctrinal issues. They are
not to be the authoritative teachers of the church. They are to teach,
they are to pray, they are to prophecy. They can fill these roles in
very helpful and wonderful ways since they have been given spiritual
gifts the same as men; they can add ingredients and qualities that no
man can give. But as for the final determiners of teaching, they are
to leave this to the male, because a woman's empathy and natural
tendency to respond is sensitive at this point. The major problem of
the church, as we see in this letter, is to detect error and not to be
deceived by it. We are up against a clever, skilled and ruthless
Deceiver, who presents truth in ways that look right and real. Men can
be deceived too, but the apostle's argument is that they men are less
likely to be deceived than women."
verse 15 I like what Pastor David Guzik says in his commentary:
Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they
continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.
Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing: Many people regard
this as one of the most difficult passages in the whole Bible. On the
surface, it could be taken to mean that if a woman continues in faith,
love, and holiness, with self-control, that God will bless her with
survival in childbirth - which was no small promise in the ancient
i. Yet this interpretation leaves many difficult
questions. Is this an absolute promise? What about godly women who
have died in childbirth? What about sinful women who have survived
childbirth? Doesn't this seem like just a reward for good works, and
not according to God's grace and mercy?
b. Saved in
childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self
control: Some approach this passage saying saved refers to gaining
eternal life. Yet this interpretation is even more difficult. Are
women saved eternally by giving birth to children - but only if they
continue with godly virtues? What about women who can't have children?
Are they denied salvation?
c. She will be saved in
childbearing: Some say that Paul "Has mostly in mind that
child-bearing, not public teaching, is the peculiar function of woman,
with a glory and dignity all its own." (Robinson) The idea is that one
should let the men teach in church and let the women have the babies.
d. She will be saved in childbearing: A better way to
approach this passage is based on the grammar in the original Greek
language. In the original, it says she will be saved in "The
childbirth". This has the sense, "Even though women were deceived, and
fell into transgression starting with Eve, women can be saved by the
Messiah - whom a woman brought into the world."
the idea here is that even though the "woman race" did something bad
in the garden by being deceived and falling into transgression, the
"woman race" also did something far greater, in being used by God to
bring the saving Messiah into the world.
ii. The summary is
this: Don't blame women for the fall of the human race; the Bible
doesn't. Instead, thank women for bringing the Messiah to us.
I know I have quoted a lot - more than I usually do. But
it is a difficult passage and I thought you would benefit from reading
a bit more on this passage.
Hope it helps, God bless!