The passage that is most negative towards women and often used to “put women in their place,” comes in 1 Timothy 2. Here’s what verses 11 to 15 say:
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 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. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
At first sight, the meaning is clear. Women are not to teach or to have authority over men.
The context is important. Paul left Timothy in Ephesus when he traveled to Macedonia. The reason? Paul wanted him to correct false teaching (1 Tim 1:3-4). People were involved in endless discussions of myths and spiritual pedigrees. The likelihood is that some women had become involved in the problem.
It is good to understand the cultural context too. Ephesus was dominated by worship of Artemis or Diana, the goddess of the hunt. Her temple was one of the seven wonders of the world and drew crowds of people to it. The operation of the temple and its associated activities were the primary economic resource of the city, most inhabitants getting their livelihood in some way from the temple. Artemis was also the goddess of fertility, virginity and protection during childbirth. Eunuchs and many young female priestesses served in the temple. Girls were initiated into the cult at puberty, and when they married, had to lay something that symbolized their virginity (such as a lock of hair) on her altar. Worship of her included magical and orgiastic rites.
The Amazons were said to have founded Ephesus. The Amazons were famous female warriors of that region who believed they were superior to men.
It is against this backdrop that Paul wrote his letter to Timothy.
More to follow…
The goddess Artemis
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46 replies on “Now for the really challenging passage…”
Scriptural context is even more important. What Paul writes here is echoed and reinforced by what he wrote to the church in Ephesus ( Eph 5:22-24), what he wrote to the church in Corinth (1 Cor 11: 2-14; 1 Cor 14:33-35 ) and the church in Colossae (Col 3:18). We cannot dismiss the plain teaching of 1 Timothy 2 by an appeal to the culture, an appeal that Paul does not imply. What Paul means is clear, wives should submit to their husbands and women should not teach of exercise authority over men.
You are correct.”At first sight, the meaning is clear. Women are not to teach or to have authority over men.” Not just at first sight but even more so when viewed within the broader framework of the New Testament.
It is plainly obvious from the New Testament that women should not rule over men. It is EQUALLY obvious that men should not rule over women.
“Submit(ting) to one another out of reverence for Christ” – without reference to gender, so men have to submit to women as the other way round
“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” – anyone to all, without reference to gender, so men must seek to serve women as the other way round
“LIKEWISE, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honour to the woman as the weaker vessel” – men are not to abuse their superior physical strength to exercise authority over women but show them honour by doing LIKEWISE as what the women are commanded – to seek the place of service and mutual submission. God takes this so seriously that he obviously even rejects the prayers of men who think they can exercise authority over women.
“Yea, ALL of you be subject to one another, and be clothed with humility” – again no reference to gender.
You can indeed not find a Scripture that gives women authority over men, but the whole of the New Testament makes pretty clear that men are also not in authority over women. The New Testament calls for MUTUAL submission, for the voluntary laying down of lives of EVERYBODY, for seeking the place of service out of love for ALL disciples. That includes how men have to relate to women, not only how women have to submit to men. Also regarding teaching and speaking in the congregation, you see all over the New Testament that the guidelines for this are given for all believers, not exclusively for men. 1 Corinthians 11 states that women are not independent of the men, but men also not independent of the women, and Galatians 3:28 says again that when it comes to being heirs of the promise, which is receiving the spirit of promise, there is no difference between male and female. And if women have received the same spirit, they have the same anointing, the same authority. In 1 Peter 2, believers are said to be a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s possession, to proclaim the excellencies of Christ – again, NO gender reference. Or does this Scripture refer only to men? What then with women? Are they an “unholy nation”? A people for who’s possession – the devil’s? No, they are priests like the men, there is NO Scripture that would EVER state that the man is the “priest of the household” – women have the same priestly calling and authority as men.
The only Scripture where one could – out of ignorance of the original Greek meaning of the Words – assume that men are given authority over women is the one in Ephesians, where it says that the husband is the “head” of the wife. The Greek word there for “head” is “kephale”. This word, according to the Koine Greek – English Dictionary of Lidell, Scott, Jones and McKenzie does NOT have any connotation of authority, but means “source” or “supporter”. Dr. Richard S. Cervin, theologian with a PhD in linguistics, made a concise research, incorporating 13 different Greek-English dictionaries, on that topic and could not find any meaning of “kephale” that has to do with authority, but also rather as “empowerer”, “enabler”. This connotation of authority was first added when the word was translated literally as “head” (which is correct) into the Latin – where “head” has indeed the meaning of authority. But not so in the Greek. The Latin transported this meaning first, and our modern languages – no matter if English, or e.g. German – also understand “head” as a position of authority. THIS is now interpreting OUR culture into the Word of God!
Heiko, thank you so much for these comments. I totally agree with you. The Scriptures are very clear on a mutual submission–a “race to get lower”–wives to submit to husbands who lay down their lives for their wives.
Hi Arthur, thank you for commenting. I have to disagree with your position, although I know it’s the traditional one. I’ve tackled the 1 Corinthians 14 passage in earlier posts (starting here http://bit.ly/YCBUwZ) and I will go on to look further at this passage in depth in the next few posts.
So, at first site….that’s great. But you never expressed your position on this “cultural” issue. Women elders? Women teachers?
Connie, thanks for commenting. My position will become clear. This is the first of several posts on this passge.
Read and understand scripture with the simple innocent heart of a child and you’ll get to know Jesus (Matthew 18:4, Luke 18:17, Mark 10:15). Twist it and make it conform to your pre concieved notions of how your perfect god should act and the real God will not only allow you to believe a lie, He’ll help you to be permanently decieved (2 Thessalonians 2:10).
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding
My initial reaction to deceit like this is sadness, but it has been allowed, and somehow, some way, Jesus Christ will be glorified through it. Run from this, only the Savior can save us in these last wicked days, but He only saves (from sin) a very select, tiny minority of sinners who are hungry, thirsty, weary, and admit they can’t obtain it on their own.
I wish it was as simple as you describe. For example, are you in favor of slavery? The Bible says way more about slavery than it does about women not teaching. Follow the next few posts and see that some of these Scriptures can be interpreted with integrity but not in the traditional way.
My initial reaction to your comment is sadness 🙁
Thank you for sharing. It is clear that the seed of extreme feminism has crept into this “ministry” Keep standing for the truth of God’s Word. May the Lord bless and keep you.
And may the Lord convict and shed light of truth
Paul also teaches that in Christ there is neither male or female. And he teaches that when the church comes together, “everyone one of you has” something to share with the body (not just men). Paul had coworkers that were women and he was good friends with the male/female ministry team of Priscilla and Aquia (and Priscilla, the wife, is always listed first in the New Testament.) Catherine Booth, co-founder of The Salvation Army preached a great sermon on women doing ministry that can be found through Google.
So which of Paul’s teachings shall we go by?
Steve, thanks. This is very helpful. Some of my subsequent posts will go into this in more detail.
I do like this argument, although I’ve recently read that the whole Ephesus sex cult idea may have been disinformation. For me the better argument is contextual. The contextual argument (context of the New Testmant as a whole) can be summed up in one question.
Over which believers are any other believers (male or female) allowed to exercise authority through teaching?
No, women are not allowed to exercise authority over men by means of teaching. Nor are men allowed to exercise authority over women (or other men) by means of teaching.
That leads me to believe this passage is addressing something other than a for-all-time, gender-based prohibition on teaching (even if I’m completely ignorant of the conditions there at the time).
Hi Tim, thanks for your insightful comments. I’m leaving my favorite explanation of this passage to my last post on these verses, but it follows along the lines you are talking about. It’s an explanation from the Greek.
Having just re-read this scripture (or the part of it you posted), the same thing struck me as Tim and Heiko. Paul doesn’t permit “a woman” to have authority over men. This is odd, because who DOES Paul permit to have authority over other believers? I first read this female cult argument in Jon’s book and thought (and still think) it very astute. I’m always interested in the cultural facets of interpreting and understanding scripture. I think this is a factor. But even if it weren’t, as you and Tim and Heiko have pointed out in the comments, no one believer gets to have authority over other believers in any case. Influence, certainly. Authority, no.
I think this thing in Ephesians 5 with the husband being the “head” of the wife is causing a lot of misinterpretation here and is used as a justification for men to assume authority over women. So, just in addition to what I wrote below:
If my research is correct, the Greek word “kephale” appears 59 times in the New Testament, translated as “head”. Not one Scripture where it appears carries any reference to authority. A beautiful Scripture demonstrating through the context the original Greek connotation to the “head” as beinga “source, origin, supporter” is in Colossians 2:19, where it is said that some do “not hold(ing) fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” The head is the source from which the body is supplied and grows. Of course Christ is Lord of the church, but being the head is not the same as being the Lord, it is a different aspect of what he is to the church. Just like he is the King, the bridegroom, the shepherd, the light, the bread, the lion, and so on. All different aspects. Being the head is another one, not identical with being the Lord.
Amen, Heiko. Thank you for the Colossians scripture. I’d heard of kephale meaning source or origin before but that is a beautiful confirmation of it.
Another great example of the difference between “head” and “leader” is Colossians 2:10, where Jesus “…is the head of all rule and authority.” It would not make sense to say that He is the leader or authority of all rule and authority. But it would make sense to say He is the source of all rule and authority. Cool thing is, one doesn’t even have to look at the Greek to catch that bit…(although it is helpful).
When Matthew 20 talks about leaders being servants, that’s exactly what he means. The whole “men having authority over women” argument is a fallacy as far as I can tell.
I would say Jesus does not even talk about leaders being servants there. He talks about being great in the Kingdom. And being a servant to be a leader is not even mentioned! Rather the contrast: In the world, leaders are great, but in the kingdom servants are great! There is no mention of “leaders in the Kingdom”! Rather the opposite: Leaders rule in the world, but among his disciples it shall not be like that!
When Jesus talks about the harvest being plentiful, he mentions his problem: It is a lack of labourers. A labourer is a cheap employee, a lowly worker, and certainly NOT a leader. Jesus does not seem to have a leadership problem in the church, but indeed a servant problem. There is a plethora of books on leadership in Christian bookstores. How many books are there on servanthood? Could it be that the harvest is still so plentiful and the “barn so empty” because of that? Because we think we need more leaders, more (or better) leadership? Because we try to produce something Jesus does not call for or even need? (Slightly off topic now, sorry!)
Heiko, I totally agree with all you have written here.
It seems very simple and straight forward, Eve was created to be a help mate. Paul gives a simple historical (Adam created before Eve) and spiritual explanation (Eve was deceived) to why a woman should not assume authority over a man. That is his clear explanation as to why neither reason was cultural or geographical.
Ah, but a help-meet isn’t subservient. It’s more like a partner. And, the term used there, I recently learned, is also used to refer to God! Would you consider God to be just a “helper”?
Kelly, you’re exactly right. Of the 21 times the word “ezer” is used for help in the Old Testament, 15 of those times refer directly to God.
Was it that many times? I need to do a word search again, then, because I didn’t think I came up with that many.
I firmly believe that men and women are equal but it is clear in the Bible that are roles are indeed different. A women is not “just a helper” a helper is very important complimentary roll and can be essential in “helping” a man in accomplishing God’s purpose.
I think as Felicity will point out in this series, it isn’t clear. Also, what if God calls the woman to do something to accomplish His purpose? What of the stories of so many women being called to do what other people think they should not? God’s call must be the priority to listen to. You may want to check out the book “How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership”–so many stories by men and women who first thought as you did about men and women having different roles, but who were then faced with people and situations and scripture that ended up with them changing their minds. Fascinating read.
God calls women to do great things in His kingdom, creating nurturing environments, prayer laborers, serving the poor, among other things.
I believe that the “world’s” idea of leadership has always been seen as a position of power and privilege as opposed to a calling of service, sacrifice, and selfless protector. This along with abusive irresponsible men create a desire in women to fight for their “right to preach, teach, and lead”, instead of submitting to God’s Word and order. Men are called for leadership to be priest, protector, and provider, in the home and in the church.
I too once too believed that it didn’t matter if women took leadership roles or an authoritative position over men. I was changed by the power and truth of God’s word. I am sure that your book suggestion is an interesting read, but my final authority is the “Good Book” the Holy Bible.
I hope that my final authority is the Good Book too! I think these verses are open to debate (my future posts on this subject will deal further with this issue). I know of too many women who are passive spectators rather than actively pursuing the Kingdom because of these verses. Now they may have other problems, but it is a direct effect of some people’s teaching on these verses.
How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership is a really good book! Many respected thinkers, pastors and theologians have contributed.
The meanign of “ezer” was already covered, so I will not tackle that.
But if Eve was deceived and Adam not, why did he eat then?
If Adam was not deceived as Eve, then it meant that he ate of the fruit fully aware of the fact that he was transgressing God’s command and submitting to the serpent. I don’t know about you, but I would rather have people teach who can get deceived than people who submit to lies CONSCIOUSLY.
I don’t know about you but I simply want to obey God’s Word and His design for His New Convenient Church. I think it would be more honest for you to say that you plainly disagree with God’s Word when it comes to this subject instead of twisting scripture to debunk scripture.
You have to take the whole tenor of Scripture, not just an isolated verse or two that can be interpreted in various different ways. For example, it’s easy to make a case from the Scriptures for slavery. Both Old and New Testaments apparently endorse it. But the principles of Scripture run against it. We know that God longs to set free the captive, to loosen the bonds of slavery. So which do you go with? Of course, all Christians would now condemn slavery.
Otherwise you find yourself like the Pharisees, obeying the letter of the law but not the spirit of it.
Being an African American male the word slavery alone brings a bad taste to my mouth. It is my understanding that the Bible does not condone and certainly does not endorse it when you look at scripture in its entirety. The Bible acknowledges the existence of slavery and regulates it in the Old Testament and expresses principles for its demise in the New Testament. The Bible does not suggest or command that people own other people. Also we must be sure to keep in mind that slavery biblically was not the same as the totally inhuman way that Europeans enslaved my people. Many people in Bible times worked off a dept and some even voluntarily continued to work for their masters after their dept was paid, becoming a member of the family. I really have to wonder why you chose to use slavery as an analogy when discussing the Bible’s position on manhood and womanhood.
The Bible as a whole celebrates womanhood. The Bible is not anti-woman. The Bible describes the ultimate/ideal woman in Proverbs 31 who is a noble woman and wife who helps manage the home, handles the finances, and sells property and merchandise to provide extra income. Women in the Bible are teachers of younger women and of children in their formative years. Even Paul commends Timothy’s mother and grandmother for raising him in the faith. However God does have an order and roles for men and women. This is something you cannot deny without twisting scripture.
“The head of every man is Christ, the head of every woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”
As for the Pharisees comment. The Pharisees used the law of God as away to glorify man to measure their own selfrighteousness making them proud. Which I agree is entirely wrong. However we must not cry “Phariseeism” when a man or woman desires to obey the Lord and His Word out of genuine Love for Him. Remember this “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for DOCTRINE, for REPROOF, for CORRECTION, for INSTRUCTION in **RIGHTEOUSNESS** 2Tim3:16
The history of slavery is a sad indictment on the human race – and especially many (past) Christians.
Your question above “wonder why you chose to use slavery as an analogy” is valid, and perhaps these couple of comments may help:you to understand its use, in the Bible, (and maybe free you to use it too :).
* both women-men and slave-master relationships are discussed in the Bible The point being made by the analogy is that mention (descriptive) does not make it valid or that the practice should be followed (prescriptive). (How many quote the OT leaders of 1000s/leaders of 100s/leaders of 10s, as validation of heirarchical church systems today – when God never endorsed it). Proof-texting (verses in isolation) is not valid exegesis, and ALL the Scripture on a point should be examined.
** In the 1800s many Christians (leaders too), owned slaves in the USA, and argued forcibly for its practise.
Many commentators/authors draw attention to the practise of (complementarian) women-men arguments being of similar structure to the old (pro-slavery) slave-free arguments
Thank you for that comment. But the biblical roles given to men and women do not create a structure that enslaves women even remotely. Men who use the bibles teachings to enslave women are not born again. The structure that God has put in place protects women
Thank you all for this discussion. Marc, thank you especially for being willing to engage in it when the vast majority of us who are commenting hold a different viewpoint. I commend your courage. I also appreciate (and, naturally, agree with) the thoughtful and insightful comments of both Heiko and Graeme.
Marc, have you seen my latest post on 1 Tim 2:12–the one about the difference between singular and plural uses of the word “woman.” To me, that offers a very viable explanation of what was going on and fits in well with the rest of Scripture. I can hold that understanding with integrity.
As a woman who often is in the position of teaching men–not a position I have sought but one that I’m often placed in–I have had to wrestle with this verse. If I really believed that it says I’m not allowed to teach men, i wouldn’t have written the books, I wouldn’t write on this blog, and I wouldn’t speak at conferences all around the world. Is that what you are asking of me? But I’m confident that it’s the Holy Spirit who is leading me. He’s the only one producing the fruit I’ve had the privilege of seeing. And it’s in His leading that I’m putting my trust.
Hey Marc, I understand your point about the roles and understand that you do not endorse men suppressing women.
I don’t believe anybody here is trying to twist Biblical teachings or to deny the authoritative nature of the Word of God. The question in the case of such Scriptures as the one discussed here is: Do we take every instruction Paul wrote to the churches as binding under all circumstances, or are some of these instructions given for specific times and places for a specific purpose? This is a question that has to do with our basic approach to theology. Do we even “allow” the possibility that some instructions were for specific occasions to give specific solutions, and not meant binding for universal use?
If we take every single instruction on such church practices to be binding without limitation to any circumstances…
– Every church must make a list of women to be registered as widows, based exactly on the requirements of age and family status that Paul lined out. Pension schemes and worldly social security systems must not be taken into account.
– Nobody must be allowed as an elder if he is not married with at least two children.
– You must (compulsory) drink wine sometimes for your stomach.
– You must tithe even your herbs you grow in your garden, because Jesus said you should do these things while not leaving out other things like righteousness and mercy.
And we could take that list on and on. There is a lot of such stuff.
Would you say all these instructions in the list above, plus all similar ones not listed, need to be obeyed at all times literally by everybody? Or do you agree that some of these instructions are given for specific times, places, situations and purposes? If you do agree with that, then the question is, could it be that the instruction about women not teaching men is also to deal with a specific situation, as the cultural and religious context into which the letter was written would imply? And more so – as the New Testament would imply in other Scriptures? Just one example: It says about Priscilla AND Aquila that “they” took Apollos to explain to him (which is teach him) the Word of God in more depth. “They” means Priscilla also did that. A clear example of a woman teaching a man. Did she transgress a divine command in doing so? She did not receive any rebuke for it!
The Scriptures about the husband being the “head” of the wife… I have written already a lot here about the meaning of the Greek word “kephale”. That is not made up but has been researched by reputed theologians and linguists. And this is NOT twisting the word of God, it is rather uncovering the true meaning of it that has been clouded by our cultural understanding of the word “head”. The New Testament was not written in English, also not even in Latin, but in Greek. In Greek, “head” = “keyhole” means origin, source or supporter, and carries no connotation of authority. When Paul writes man is the head of the woman, he refers to him being her origin, her being taken from his rib. That’s all. In his language, “headship” had no meaning of leadership. He did not imply anything like that. We can not add our linguistic differences and the inherent different interpretations into the original text.
Serious question, maybe I just don’t know it: Where is there any Scripture that says the husband is the priest of the house / family and the wife is not? I do not see any Scripture stating such a thing.
Anyway, I trust you love God and are eager to obey him and concerned with the integrity of the Scriptures being preserved.
I will answer your question in terms of the priest of the home. Maybe the exact word priest was not used. But however husbands are to “love their wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through God’s word,”(read Ephesians 5:25-26)..yes that is a command for HUSBANDS. God bless
I find it interesting that a verse is held as God’s inerrant word even though a multitude of verses contradict the verse in question. A type of biblical gymnastics must occur in order to alleviate the apparent contradictions. Verses like 1 Corinthians 14:26 “When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation” and verse 31 “For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted” are artificially quantified in order to preserve 1 Timothy 2:11-12.
Instead, the few limiting verses need to be interpreted to fit in with the gist of scripture. Felicity is not a lone voice on the topic; several other authors have voiced their opinions on the matter casting serious doubt as to the requirement for women to be silent including Frank Viola, Gene Edwards, Dennis Swift and Greek scholar Ann Nyland to name a few.
Choosing to remain dedicated to an opinion that suppresses half of the body of Christ in spite of Paul’s admonition in Galatians 3:28 that “there is neither . . . male nor female; for you are all one in Christ” suppresses the beauty of Christ that can only be expressed by women. No offense, but us men can be boring without the expression of women.
Thank you for your support and insightful comments. As I’ve studied this again recently for these blog posts, this verse (1Cor 14:26) has struck me too.
Oh, I should also mention, all this stuff about Ephesus and Artemis was used in a sermon this past summer when I was looking for a church. That sermon helped solidify our decision to choose that one.
Tim Day’s comments are on the right track, with a closer examination of the greek text shows it is not a blanket prohibition.
Some one has mentioned Dr David Sholer, his article/site is worth a look at:
The most helpful book “Beyond Sex Roles” (Bilezikian) is still available.
The real question to ask is: Did the Cross and Redemption restore man-woman to “before the Fall” relationships?
Graeme, some thoughtful comments. I’ll try to get hold of the book.