My last post about a female Indian church planter who was not allowed to share in class obviously struck a chord with many. In response, someone asked me how he could answer those who use 1 Timothy 2:12 as the basis of their belief that women are not allowed to teach and shouldn’t have authority over men.
I don’t believe those who silenced my friend are deliberate misogynists. My guess is that they are genuinely trying to follow the Scriptures. The problem is, they take a legalistic viewpoint on an English version of a verse that can, with total integrity, be interpreted in a different way.
So here’s the question: is 1 Timothy 2:12 an absolute prohibition on women teaching men? Is it right for the men in her class to forbid my friend to speak? Or are there other Scriptures that provide a balancing view, in which case, a different interpretation is acceptable.
People sometimes go to ludicrous lengths to accommodate this verse, as my Indian friend discovered.
Consider the following in trying to understand 1 Timothy 2:12
- 1 Timothy 2:12 is the only verse in the Bible that apparently explicitly states that women are not allowed to 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. Even more surprising that Timothy allowed 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 and from Acts 2 that this includes women. If Paul really forbade women to teach, why didn’t he mention it then?
- 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 again there’s no qualification here that women are not 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 any 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.
- The Great Commission, in which disciples are commanded to both baptize and teach is not limited to men.
- 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.