Women aren’t allowed to teach? Really?

Is 1 Timothy 2:12 an absolute prohibition on women teaching men? People sometimes go to ludicrous lengths to accommodate this verse.


Photo Credit: potamos.photography via Compfight cc

Renowned Chinese teacher, Watchman Nee, benefited greatly from the teaching of two Chinese missionaries/leaders. So when they visited him one day, he wanted his church to hear them. But there was a problem. They were women, and therefore could not teach the men. In order to “fulfill the letter of the law,” he strung a curtain along the middle of the meeting room. The two Chinese missionaries taught the ladies on one side of the curtain while the men sat and listened on the other side!

Consider the following:

  • 1 Timothy 2:12 is the only verse in the Bible that apparently explicitly states that women cannot teach men.
  • Paul and Timothy had traveled together for some time, and Timothy would have known if Paul forbade women to teach (I Corinthians 4;17). It would have therefore been surprising if Timothy and Paul hadn’t made that clear right from the start in Ephesus, and even more surprising that Timothy was allowing women to teach and the practice needed to stop.
  • Paul acknowledged the very real role that women had in teaching Timothy  (his mother and grandmother).
  • Priscilla (named first) and her husband, Aquila, taught Apollos a “more accurate way.” (Acts 18:26)
  • 1 Corinthians 14:26 gives a list of things that everyone is expected to participate in. “When you come together, each one has…” The Greek word for each one, hekastos, is a word that encompasses both genders. This list includes teaching. Several times in chapter 14, the word “all” is used. Verses 24 and 31 both say that all may prophesy, and we know from Paul’s teaching in chapter 11 that this includes women. If Paul really forbade women to teach, why didn’t he mention it ?
  • A number of gifts to the church, including teachers, are listed in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. For some of these gifts there are female examples in the Scriptures (Junia was an apostle, Philip’s daughters prophesied), but there’s no qualification here that women aren’t allowed to teach. Paul asks, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?” While the obvious answer to this question is “no” there is no implication that some of these gifts are gender specific.
  • Colossians 3:16 exhorts us to teach and admonish one another.
  • In Revelation 2, the church in Thyatira is chastised for allowing “Jezebel” to lead people astray. It’s what she teaches that is the problem, not the fact that she’s a woman teaching.
  • 2 Timothy 2:2 is the classic passage on discipleship. It is often rendered “The things you have heard me say…  entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. The word “men” in the Greek is anthropos, a generic term for humans rather than gender specific.

This verse, then, appears to contradict what Paul says in other places. So is there another explanation for what Paul says in this verse?

Follow the next few posts…

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://twitter.com/Rita_Kroon Rita Kroon

    Though I teach only women during my Bible studies, this post resonates with me. When the word of God is being taught, gender should be of no concern.

    I’d love to chat further with you about my work as a Bible study leader and author. Do you have a best contact?

    Best,
    Rita Kroon at womanhoodbyrita.com

  • felicitydale

    From Trish Campbell:

    I hope it’s okay to jump in head first here and say that I noticed that the word translated as “women” is “gune” in the Greek, and SPECIFICALLY means “wife.” This is the Greek word used and unfortunately translated as “women” in 1 Tim. 2 verses 9-14.

    BUT, if you put “wife” where it ought to be, it might shine some light and would read:

    Likewise also that wives (gune) should adorn themselves in respectable apparel,
    with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls
    or costly attire, but with what is proper for wives (gune) who profess godliness–with good works. I do not permit a wife (gune) to teach or to exercise authority over (her) husband (aner can be translated as husband); rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the wife (gune) was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she [the wife] will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

    This SAME Greek word is translated as “wife” in 3:2:2 in the description of a bishop being married to one wife (gune); as it is in verse 11, “their wives (gune) must be grave,” and verse 12,”…the husbands of one wife (gune).

    What does this matter? I think it matters that Paul is addressing the order of husband/wife in this passage, and is NOT forbidding women for all time to teach in ekklesia gatherings, otherwise ALL the other letters would be written to men alone with women being kept in utter silence.

    It seems clear however, especially from observing the LORD JESUS’ interacting with women – and His disciples’ ASTONISHMENT – that after His resurrection Jesus Himself poured out His Spirit on BOTH men and women, and expects them EACH to share His life as HE leads. It also seems clear from Jesus’ example that nobody in His Body is to dominate another. Look at Jesus. Jesus is the key.

    • randirooks

      It makes sense that Paul is addressing something about marriage in these verses vs. some generalities about the Church & gender roles when we gather.

      Why do you think Paul was having to address this issue to marriage? Is it something that was just going on/wrong in this Church? or a ‘rule’ across the board for all because of typical gender tendencies/personalities?

      • Sheryl Martin

        After doing some research I discovered that this rule already existed in Hebrew law.

        • felicitydale

          Sheryl, can you share more about this?

    • Earn nest

      Thanks, Felicity. How often are these slight but important translational errors the cause of grief.

      • Earn nest

        I’mm wondering if men is actually husband though.

  • http://www.kellyjyoungblood.com/ Kelly J Youngblood

    Regarding teaching, I was thinking about 2 Timothy 1:5 (I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.) If Timothy learned about his faith from his mother and grandmother, doesn’t it stand to reason that they TAUGHT him?

    • felicitydale

      Kelly, you are absolutely right.

    • damien

      was he a man or boy when they were teaching him???

  • randirooks

    I loved this!! Thank you sooo much! :) I’m so excited to read all these posts on women. This has been an issue on my heart recently and something I have had to confront many times as a young woman & church leader (outside of the church as business) that I’m not sure I have ever truly made peace with. Look forward to seeing how God uses this/you in my life, thank you!! I’ve been reading off & on through Alan Knox’s page… and when I saw Frank Viola promote you – I knew it was definitely just time to subscribe! I’m not sure why I haven’t before. Anyway, thank you!! Look forward to learning from you, with you!

    • randirooks

      and here’s a comment from me hahaha I didn’t even remember reading this post. I have GOT to book mark this/these verses and talk to the Lord about them, surrender this topic once and for all…so I can have some peace about it :)

  • Kristina Skepton

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! God gave me a heart for teaching and preaching and I needed some good biblical support!

    Kristina, Blogger
    themoreyouseegod.blogspot.com

  • Pingback: Two ways past culture affects women today | Simply Church: A House Church Perspective

  • Daniel

    So it is required (in your opinion) that the Bible has to repeat a teaching twice to make it rule? Paul said no to women teaching and all you were trying so hard is to find implications on other passages. Trying to make the Bible politically correct then

    • Sheryl Martin

      Paul’s reasons: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” Did not Adam sin too? Certainly God was an equal opportunity discipliner. Both were banished from the garden. Initially, both were told not to eat the fruit. But Adam sinned by being so sexually attracted to Eve, he would have done anything. So Adam was tempted and sinned. One was not more of a sinner than the other. Paul frequently speaks from his culture. He also tells women they must have their heads covered. Did Jesus say that women couldn’t teach? Not at all. Jesus stepped completely out of his culture and is ageless. God gives women the gift of wisdom and teaching too. He gives both males and females gifts of the Spirit and expects women to use the gifts He has blessed them with. It is Paul’s cultural thinking, and our culture that prevents women from using the gifts God has given us.

      • Daniel

        It looks like Paul’s letters alone aren’t enough for you. You want Jesus to write you another letter when it was already written (1Tim 2:12 and 1Cor 14:34). I am sorry if this offended you but we are all slaves of God and by faith we must follow. It may not make sense or socially fit but are we God to argue with Him?

        • Sheryl Martin

          I feel when there is scripture that is not clear then we must pray and ask God for wisdom and clarity. Many Christian women including myself are wondering why God would give us spiritual wisdom and teaching as the gift of the Holy Spirit and then not be able to share God’s wisdom. What is God’s will for me? Many women feel marginalized in churches in our present culture. Our most blessed Jesus Christ spoke parables that pertain to women and had female followers – totally in opposition to the culture of his day. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard sports analogies by male pastors in their message. It is not God’s will that women be marginalized in Christian churches or oppressed. Christian Men need to follow Christ’s example.

          • felicitydale

            Sheryl, I agree with you. Many women are unnecessarily squashing the gifts God has given them in an attempt to obey these verses.

        • felicitydale

          Daniel, while I understand where you are coming from (most of us were brought up to believe what you do), when you look at the whole trend of the Scriptures, it’s very hard to justify a legalistic approach to the two passages you mention, especially when they can be interpreted, with equal integrity, in other ways.

  • marie

    This is such a great blog, our house church is studying this very issue presently. Thank you for this blog writing, it is a gift.

  • Pingback: “I do not permit a woman to teach” ? (2) | Dr Ken Baker

  • Joe Boudreault

    You go to great lengths to do away with this verse. How about I go to the same lengths to try and say that today we don’t need to confess Christ, that he accepts us inn these end days regardless??