Readers Question / Comment - Is Paul's writing about women in 1 Tim
2 gender discrimination?
Praise the Lord
I am a very good beneficiary of JPN website for more
Sir I really appreciate and thank you for your generous sharing of God's
word in detail and free.
I am from India, we friends had a little prayer
group in college days where we discussed and learnt Judges mainly and some other
After graduation I have a prayer cell in my home where we deeply
discuss Daniel, Hebrew, Ruth , Esther etc...
Its really helpful to understand
the depth of God's word. Thank you once again.
I have a little
doubt and I hope I can get a correct answers from you. I was once engaged in a
conversation with an atheist who asked me about Paul's advice on women in
not talking in church. He claims it's a gender discrimination. As a woman I
happened to feel the same . But I strongly believe there must be some details
that I am missing in understanding the passage.(1 Timothy 2:12)
you kindly help me in understanding the actual meaning. I am hoping a reply
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.
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.
off is Ray Stedman on the first part of the passage:
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.
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.
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
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.)
12-14, 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.
One 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,
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 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.
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.
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,
I've done it all my life.
It makes the peas taste
But it 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
Concerning 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 world.
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."
i. Probably, 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
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!