Prayer for All People, 1-8

2:1 First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people, 2:2 even for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.

Requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks – Milne distinguishes these as follows:

  • ‘requests’ are personal prayers made on special occasions for particular needs such as one’s own guidance, help or comfort in a given situation.
  • ‘prayers’ is the most general of the terms and refers to all kinds of requests that believers make, but perhaps mostly for general needs that arise. Both terms occur in Philippians 4:6 and 1 Timothy 5:5.
  • ‘intercessions’ stands for prayers that are offered on behalf of other people and their known needs; the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ also make representation on behalf of believers (Romans 8:27, 34).
  • ‘thanksgivings’ are prayers of gratitude to God for his many mercies and particular blessings received from above. These two are to be offered on behalf of all sorts of people. Thanksgiving is always required of God’s people (1 Thess. 5:18). (Bulleting added)
Prayers…for everyone?

‘Some years ago I attended public worship in a certain church. The pastor was absent on holiday, and a lay elder led the pastoral prayer. He prayed that the pastor might enjoy a good vacation (which was fine), and that two lady members of the congregation might be healed (which was also fine; we should pray for the sick). But that was all. The intercession can hardly have lasted thirty seconds. I came away saddened, sensing that this church worshipped a little village god of their own devising. There was no recognition of the needs of the world, and no attempt to embrace the world in prayer.’ (Stott)

First of all, then – This links with what he has just said about the gospel and its defence.

All people – This is emphatic, and in contrast to the exclusivist tendencies of the false teachers.

‘”Philip James Spener had a son of eminent talents, but he was perverse and extremely vicious. All means of love and persuasion were without success. The father could only pray, which he continued to do, that the Lord might yet be pleased to save his son at any time and in any way. The son fell sick, and while lying on his bed in great distress of mind, nearly past the power of speech or motion, he suddenly started up, clasped his hands, and exclaimed, ‘My father’s prayers, like mountains, surround me!’ Soon after his anxiety ceased, a sweet peace spread over his face, his malady came to a crisis, and the son was saved in body and soul. He became another man. Spener lived to see his son a respectable man, in public office, and happily married. Such was the change of his life after his conversion.”‘ (Spurgeon)

For kings and all those in authority – ‘This was a remarkable instruction, since at that time no Christian ruler existed anywhere in the world…The reigning emperor was Nero, whose vanity, cruelty and hostility to the Christian faith were widely known.’ (Stott)

Holiness – better, ‘good conduct’. Paul’s concern is that Christians might be allowed by the (pagan) authorities to witness faithfully and openly to the gospel, for the benefit of all (mentioned in v1.

Paul is saying then, that prayer should be offered to enable the ‘full observance of religion and high standards of morality.’ (NEB)

It is to be noted that the pax romana was a major factor in the early spread of Christianity.

‘The ultimate object of our prayers for national leaders, then, is that in the context of the peace they preserve, religion and morality can flourish, and evangelism go forward without interruption.’ (Stott)

Let’s take public intercession more seriously

We resolve ourselves, and call upon our churches, to take much more seriously the period of intercession in public worship; to think in terms of ten or fifteen minutes rather than five; to invite lay people to share in leading, since they often have deep insight into the world’s needs; and to focus our prayers both on the evangelization of the world (closed lands, resistant peoples, missionaries, national churches etc.) and on the quest for peace and justice in the world (places of tension and conflict, deliverance from the nuclear horror, rulers and governments, the poor and needy etc.). We long to see every Christian congregation bowing down in humble and expectant faith before our sovereign Lord.’  Evangelism and Social Responsibility: An Evangelical Commitment, Lausanne Occasional Paper 22, quoted by Stott)

That we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness – ‘Godliness’ translates ‘eusebeia‘; which which roughly corresponds to our popular usage of ‘religion’ (Hendriksen: ‘piety’).  Fee thinks that this a word use by the false teachers, which Paul is now using against them.

‘For many scholars, this sounds terribly bourgeois, even selfish. But, again, it probably reflects the activities of the false teachers, who are not only disrupting (“disquieting”) the church(es) but apparently are also bringing the gospel and the church into disrepute on the outside (see esp. 1 Tim 3:7; 5:14; 6:1; cf. Titus 2:5, 8; 3:1–3). The concern here, therefore, is not that Christians should have a life free from trouble or distress (which hardly fits the point of view of 2 Tim. 1:8 and 2 Tim 3:12) but that they should live in such a way that “no one will speak evil of the name of God and of our teaching” (1 Tim 6:1).’ (Fee)

Similarly, Hendriksen says that for Paul ‘freedom from disturbances, such as wars and persecutions, will facilitate the spread of the gospel of salvation in Christ to the glory of God.’

Paul had himself experienced such blessing, as when the Roman officials intervened on his behalf in Ephesus, Acts 19:23ff.

2:3 Such prayer for all is good and welcomed before God our Savior, 2:4 since he wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

He wants all people to be saved

God wants all people to be saved?

2:3 Such prayer for all is good and welcomed before God our Savior, 2:4 since he wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Various interpretations have been offered:

‘God wants all people to be saved.  Since his will cannot be thwarted, all therefore will be saved.’

This is the view of Hanson.  But, as Moo states, the problem with a universalistic interpretation ‘is that Paul teaches quite explicitly in this very letter—indeed, in the next verse—that faith, which Paul confines to this life and limits only to some people, is necessary for salvation (see also 1 Tim 1:16; 3:16; 4:10).’

‘This interpretation would make his missionary intensity incomprehensible—why such effort if none can be lost?—and defy clear statements that God judges the ungodly who fail to seek forgiveness and new life in Christ. With respect to Jews, for example, Paul writes that he labors “in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them” (Rom 11:14).’ (Yarbrough)

‘God extends the availability, and/or the offer, of salvation to all people’

Only some, however accept.  This is the view of Grudem (Systematic Theology, p594-603).

Marshall thinks that there is ‘little doubt’ that ‘the reference is to God’s desire that all people should be saved, whether or not they actually respond to his gracious offer.’

It is also the view of Stott who, quite properly, wishes to preserve the antimony between the scriptural doctrine of election and that of the universal offer of the gospel; between divine sovereignty and human responsibility.  This, writes Stott, ‘is not a purely Pauline problem; we find it clearly within the teaching of Jesus himself. On the one hand he invited all to come to him [Mt 11:28; Jn 12:32]; on the other he said that his ministry was limited to those whom the Father had given him out of the world [Jn 17:6, 9].  Again, on one occasion he said, ‘You refuse to come to me’, on another ‘No-one can come to me unless the Father … draws him’ [Jn 5:40; 6:44]. So why is it that some people do not come to Christ? Is it that they will not or that they cannot? Jesus taught both.’

Hodge’s view is not dissimilar: ‘if the word will, θέλει, here means to purpose, then the passage teaches that all men shall ultimately be certainly saved. But if the word means here what it does in Matthew 27:43, to have complacency in, (εἰ θέλει αὐτόν,) then it teaches only what the Bible everywhere else teaches, namely, that God is love; that He delights not in the death of sinners.’ (Systematic Theology, Vol 3, p872)

‘God wants all people to be protected from danger’

‘Saved’, in this interpretation, is being used in its weaker sense of ‘preserved’ or ‘protected’ (specifically, from lawless misrule, or more generally, from physical danger).  This may indeed be the meaning of the word in 1 Tim 2:11; 4:10.  Simpson argues along these lines.  But, as Guthrie comments, the passage as a whole is probably too theological to admit this meaning.  Moreover, the very next phrase, ‘come to a knowing of the truth’ accords with spiritual salvation better than it accords with physical preservation.

‘God wants all kinds of people to be saved’

Marshall thinks that there is ‘nothing in the context’ to suggest this.  To the contrary, this view takes good account of the context.  God wants prayer to be offered for all kinds of people, because he wants all kinds of people to be saved.

It is clear that the word ‘all’ quite often does not mean ‘all people without exception’. See Mt 10:22; Mk 1:5; Jn 3:26; Acts 22:15: in such passages, ‘all’ obviously means ‘all kinds of people; all without distinction’.  In the present passage, note that in v1 Paul urges that prayers be made for ‘everyone’. It is clearly impossible to pray for each and every person. V2 defines the scope as ‘all kinds of people’, with those in authority being mentioned as a special class. This context indicates that the same scope is in mind in vv4,6, ie, that no class or group of person is excluded from the offer of the gospel.

Hendriksen: ‘The expression “all men” here in verse 4 must have the same meaning as in verse 1. In a sense, salvation is universal, that is, it is not limited to any one group. Churches must not begin to think that prayers must be made for subjects, not for rulers; for Jews, not for Gentiles. No, it is the intention of God our Savior that “all men without distinction of rank, race, or nationality” be saved.

Fee: ‘To say that God wants (not “wills,” and therefore it must come to pass) all people to be saved, implies neither that all (meaning everybody) will be saved (against 1 Tim 3:6; 4:2; or 1 Tim 4:10, e.g.) nor that God’s will is somehow frustrated since all, indeed, are not saved. The concern is simply with the universal scope of the gospel over against some form of heretical exclusivism or narrowness.’

Moo notes that ‘we have seen that Paul uses universal language in this sense elsewhere (Rom. 11:32), and 1 Timothy 2:1, with its call for prayers to be offered for “everyone” (same Greek words as in 2:4), supports this nuance.’  (in Morgan, Christopher W. Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment. Zondervan. Kindle Edition.)

Guthrie: ‘There may have been a tendency towards exclusiveness on the part of some, who were influenced perhaps by the same urge that drove the later Gnostics into their own exclusive circles of initiates‚ and Paul, to provide an antidote‚ may here be stressing God’s universal compassion. These words fairly represent the magnanimity of the divine benevolence.’

Mounce agrees that ‘the force of the statement is directed toward the opponents’ sectarian theology. As Jeremias  points out, this statement stands in firm opposition to the synagogue’s belief that God hates the sinner and wishes to save only the righteous and to the gnostic belief that salvation is only for those “in the know” (Wissenden).’

This is also the view of Yarbrough, Milne.

According to Calvin, ‘the apostle’s meaning here is simply that no nation of the earth and no rank of society is excluded from salvation, since God wills to offer the Gospel to all without exception.  Since the preaching of the Gospel brings life, he rightly concludes that God regards all men as being equally worthy to share in salvation.  But he is speaking of classes and not of individuals and his only concern is to include princes and foreign nations in this number.’  Helm takes this as evidence that Calvin believed in particular atonement, and so it might, if there were not many other instances of the Reformer’s belief that Christ died for the sins of the whole world.  (See Allen, David L.. The Extent of the Atonement: A Historical and Critical Review (Kindle Locations 2067-2069). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

Calvin notes that those in authority, such as Paul has just mentioned, were sworn enemies of the gospel.  Nevertheless, they should be prayed for, and are not excluded, either by reason of the lofty position or their present state of unbelief, from the call of the gospel.

A knowledge of the truth – ‘Knowing the truth is equivalent to accepting the gospel message and emphasizes the cognitive element in the acceptance. Much of the teaching in the PE is directed not against the truth or falseness of the teaching of the opponents but against their improper conduct and the ungodly results of their teaching. This phrase rounds out Paul’s critique by showing that their teaching, as well as their behavior, is untruthful.’ (Mounce)

2:5 For there is one God and one intermediary between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, himself human, 2:6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, revealing God’s purpose at his appointed time.

There is one God and one mediator between God and men – It is evident that the false teaching in Ephesus included some form of incipient gnosticism. The Gnostics believed (or came to believe) that there were many different ranks of angels and that these acted as mediators between a holy God and sinful men. Jesus Christ was relegated to the position of one of the angels. This verse refutes that position.

Spencer remarks on how Paul’s teaching that there is ‘one God and one mediator’ challenged pagan thinking:-

‘First, many would believe in a variety of gods for a variety of purposes and people. As Artemidorus explained, “What the gods signify for men, goddesses signify for women. Gods are more auspicious for men than goddesses; goddesses are more auspicious for women than gods” (Onir. 4.75). At Ephesus, many would place gods in a hierarchy with Artemis at the top. The temple of Artemis at Ephesus (Artemision) was also renowned as an asylum for the innocent yet simultaneously Artemis could be a slaughterer. Some would think she should be the mediator (1 Tim 2:5). Others would conclude she would not save all (v. 4). In addition, Ephesus had shrines sacred to Zeus, Cybele and Demeter (mother of the gods), Apollo (Artemis’ brother), Asclepius (god of healing), Aphrodite, Dionysus, Hygeia, Pan, Isis, Hecate, Marnas (river god), Leto (Artemis’ mother), Athena, Serapis, Eros, and deified emperors, such as Augustus. Paul, in contrast, asserts that there is only one God who can serve all needs, including salvation, for all people.’

Claire Smith comments that there is one God for all people:

‘There is not one god for Jews and another for Gentiles, or one saviour for the lowly and another for kings. There is one Saviour, one mediator, and one ransom—sufficient for all types of people and available to all.’ (God’s Good Design. Matthias Media. Kindle Edition.)

John Stott remarks on the essential logic of this passage:

‘Monotheism remains the essential basis for mission.  The supreme reason why God “desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the [same] truth is that “there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all…”  The logic of this passage rests on the relation between “all men” and “one God”.  Our warrant for seeking the allegiance of “all men” is that there is only “one God”, and only “one mediator” between him and them.  Without the unity of God and the uniqueness of Christ there could be no Christian mission.’ (Stott, Our Guilty Silence, 23)

Elsewhere, Stott comments on the Christian conviction about the uniqueness of Christ and his salvation:

‘To claim that Jesus Christ is unique is not to say that there is no truth in other religions and ideologies.  Of course there is.  For we believe in God’s general revelation and common grace.  The Logos of God is still “the true light” coming into the world and enlightening every man, Jn 1:9.  All men know something of God’s glory from creation and something of God’s law from their own nature, as Paul argues in Romans 1 and 2.  But how does this argument continue?  Not that their knowledge of God saves them, but the very opposite!  It condemns them because they suppress it.  Indeed, “they are without excuse, for although they knew God they did not honour him as God…”
‘It is against this dark background of universal rebellion, guilt and judgment of mankind that the good news of Jesus Christ shines with such dazzling beauty.  There is salvation in no other, for there is no other mediator between God and man but only Jesus Christ who died as a ransom for sinners, Acts 4:12; 1 Tim 2:5.
‘Firmly to reject all syncretism in this way and to assert the uniqueness and finality of Jesus Christ is not “doctrinal superiority” or imperialism, as it has been called.  Conviction about revealed religion is not arrogance.  Its proper name is “stewardship”, the humble and obedient stewardship of a church which knows it has been “put in trust with the Gospel”.’ (Authentic Christianity, 348)

Verses 5 & 6 link together three phases of Christ’s work of redemption:-

  1. Incarnate as a human being – ‘the man’
  2. Died as a ransom – ‘who gave himself as a ransom for all men’
  3. Exalted as our heavenly mediator – ‘one mediator between God and men’

A ransom for all men – ‘We are to understand this to mean a ransom available for all people, without exception.’ (Grudem, Systematic Theology)

Josephus describes the Roman general Crassus’ visit to the Temple in Jerusalem in 54-53 BC. He was intent on plundering the sanctuary, but a priest named Eliazar gave him a large gold bar as lytron anti panton, ‘a ransom for all’, that is as a substitute for the Temple treasures. (Stott, The Cross of Christ, 178)

2:7 For this I was appointed a preacher and apostle—I am telling the truth; I am not lying—and a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. 2:8 So I want the men to pray in every place, lifting up holy hands without anger or dispute.

Belleville: ‘It is likely that the women and men at Ephesus were at odds with one another. There were signs of friction. The men were praying in an angry tone of voice (1 Tim 2:8); the women were learning (and perhaps teaching) in a belligerent manner (1 Tim 2:11–12). Paul calls twice for peace and calm (hēsuchia, 1 Tim 2:11–12) and twice for moderation (sōphrosunēs); 1 Tim 2:9, 15).’

I want the men to pray in every place – Note the emphasis (for the moment) on what the men are to do.  Paul will address the women shortly.

Note also the strength of language used.  Usually Paul ‘urges’, or ‘asks’; here, he commands.

‘In every place’ suggests that the church at Ephesus had flourished sufficiently that it met in several different homes.

Lifting up holy hands – This would have been the usual posture for prayer.

Conduct of Women, 9-15

2:9 Likewise the women are to dress in suitable apparel, with modesty and self-control. Their adornment must not be with braided hair and gold or pearls or expensive clothing, 2:10 but with good deeds, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God.

Likewise – or ‘therefore’ linking this section with the previous one and showing that Paul is still thinking about conduct in public worship.  Belleville proposes the following ‘filling in of the grammatical gaps’: “I want men in every place to pray with holy hands.… Likewise [I want] women [in every place to pray] with respectable conduct.…”

There is an assumption, then’ (writes Belleville) that women as well as men were leading public prayer.

The women are to dress in suitable apparel – Although Paul’s words may refer to the way the women dress (writes Belleville), they more likely have to do with a respectful demeanour.  ‘Women were to behave as upstanding and respectable citizens…Paul here was not concerned with the first-century equivalent of plunging necklines, tight-fitting clothes, and short skirts. The issue was flaunting one’s wealth in public. The well-to-do came to worship with gold-braided hair, pearls, and expensive clothes (2:9b). In so doing, they drew attention to themselves (2:9) and distracted from worship of God.’

Blomberg agrees that this teaching is addressed especially to the wealthy women at Ephesus, since it is only they who would have been able to afford the luxuries mentioned.  The original is lit. ‘not with braided hair and gold or pearls’, suggesting that there might not be anything wrong with braided hair as such, but ‘the ornate coiffure in which jewels were interwoven into the braids, as one way of holding the hair together, involved hours of attention to one’s external appearance and was often accompanied by lavish, costly attire.’  (Neither Poverty Not Riches, p207)

‘Women of the lower economic ranks in the East frequently covered their heads; but the urban congregations of Ephesus would have included women of higher social status, who would flaunt their status by the ornate ways they decorated their hair. To poorer women in the congregation, the wealthier women’s wardrobe represented both ostentation and potential seduction, so Paul rules against it, borrowing language common among moralists of his day.’ (DPL)

Good deeds

2:11 A woman must learn quietly with all submissiveness. 2:12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man. She must remain quiet.

A woman must learn – This seems to link back to v4, with its reference to coming to ‘a knowledge of the truth’.

In Greek, the expression is, ‘Let a woman learn…’.  The instruction is primarily directed, not to the women, but to Timothy as pastor.

Even though, in the minds of many, Paul’s teaching here seems to demean women, at the very least it must be said that, in urging that they be regarded as learners, he elevates them to a status that many in his day would have denied to them.  But then, as Yarborough points out, we have the example of Jesus himself, who frequently benefitted from the Master’s one-to-one instruction.

Quietly – ‘denotes not an absence of speech but a calm demeanor (cf. 1 Pet 3:4)’ (Belleville).  The word is used in Acts 22:2 for the attention that an otherwise restless crowd gave to Paul when they realised that he was speaking to them in Aramaic.  It is also used in 2 Thess 3:12, where Paul urges people to ‘work quietly’ in order to provide for themselves.

Yarborough expands:

‘The Greek words convey not muteness (hence NIV does not translate “with silence”) but orderly, industrious, and self-responsible labor in accordance with dominical and apostolic teaching. People freeloading off others will cause disturbance and unrest. Paul calls Thessalonian readers to pay attention to what will make for a stable and peaceful atmosphere in Christ’s service rather than self-serving disruption. In the same way, Paul calls on Timothy to see that each woman in the Ephesian setting is protected from distractions for the sake of the redemption afforded by teaching (and thus learning) able to save both Timothy and his hearers (see 1 Tim 4:16). An analogous situation might be Martha, “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made,” in comparison with Mary, “who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said” (Luke 10:39–40). Here was hēsychia. Was it demeaning?.

With all submissiveness – On the submission of women, see also Eph 5:22-33; Col 3:18; 1 Tim 5:14; Tit 2:4-5.  But Paul is not referring to a general submissiveness here, but rather to a submissive attitude towards learning.

Yarborough says that it goes against the context to suupose that Paul is urging submission of women either to men generally or to himself or Timothy.

Claire Smith summarises the NT teaching on submissiveness:-

‘The word that Paul uses here and a related verb meaning ‘submit’ are used often in the New Testament, and in the context of many different types of relationships. Children are to submit to their parents (Luke 2:51; 1 Tim 3:4; cf. Titus 1:6). Slaves are to submit to their masters (Titus 2:9; 1 Pet 2:18-25). Wives are to submit themselves to their husbands (1 Cor 14:34-35; Eph 5:24; Col 3:18; Titus 2:5; 1 Pet 3:1, 5). Christians are to submit to those over them in Christian leadership (1 Cor 16:15-16; 1 Pet 5:5).  We are to submit ourselves to God (Jas 4:7), and as part of that God-ward submission, we are to submit to governing authorities (Rom 13:1; Titus 3:1; 1 Pet 2:13).’

Smith adds:

‘However, this language of submission is not limited to human relationships. All things have been subjected and will ultimately submit to Christ (Eph 1:22; Phil 3:21; Heb 2:5, 8; 1 Pet 3:22). Demons submit to the rule of Christ (Luke 10:17). The church is to submit to Christ as her head (Eph 5:24). And when all things have been made subject to him, Christ himself will submit to God the Father (1 Cor 15:27-28).’  (Smith, Claire. God’s Good Design. Matthias Media. Kindle Edition.)
'A woman must...'

2:11 A woman must learn quietly with all submissiveness. 2:12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man. She must remain quiet. 2:13 For Adam was formed first and then Eve. 2:14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman, because she was fully deceived, fell into transgression. 2:15 But she will be delivered through childbearing, if she continues in faith and love and holiness with self-control.

This is a much-debated passage.  According to Giles (What the Bible Actually Teaches on Women), ‘it has been the most disputed text among evangelicals for the past forty years’.

Various questions arise:

  1. Given that the Greek is the same, when Paul refers to ‘a woman’ and ‘a man’ does he mean husbands and wives only?
  2. Given that the singular is used, Is he thinking of women and men collectively, or as individuals.
  3. Do ‘learning quietly’ and ‘remaining quiet’ imply complete silence, or simply restraint?
  4. To whom (or what) is the woman to be submissive?  To the men?  To God?  To the teachers?  To the teaching?
  5. Does ‘teach and exercise authority’ refer to one activity, or to two?
  6. Is the teaching informal, or formal, or both?
  7. What sort of exercise of authority does the apostle prohibit?  Is it a rightful authority that is exercised by a man, but denied to a woman (the complementarian view)?  Or it is a domineering attitude, a usurping of authority, that woman (and also men) should eschew (the egalitarian view)?
  8. Was there some specific situation at Ephesus which occasioned this teaching, and does this mean that the prohibition does not apply to women and men today?
  9. Does Paul’s argument that Adam was ‘formed first’ imply male authority?
  10. Does Paul mean that women generally (or the Ephesian women specifically) are more prone to error?
  11. How are women ‘delivered through childbearing’, and what is the relevance to Paul’s argument here?

A woman must learn quietly with all submissiveness.

Marshall says that ‘the superlative sense with πᾶς calls for complete subjection.’

The context appears to suggest that the woman is to be subject to the man.  ‘Learning quietly with all submissiveness’ is one side of the coin; ‘not allowing a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man’ is the other side of the coin.  The implication is that women are not to teach or exercise authority over the men in the gathered household of God.

In Marshall’s judgement, the submission is

‘to teachers (unless the teacher was her husband, but the subjection appears to be to any teacher) and is part of that subjection that accompanies confession of the gospel (2 Cor 9:13)…Submission here is descriptive of the attitude or posture appropriate to learning; it implies acceptance of the teaching and of the authority of the teacher. Presumably men who were not teaching would also be expected to learn in quietness and in submission to the leaders (1 Cor 16:16; cf. Gal 6:6), just as women who pray must do so like the men by lifting holy hands without anger and dispute.’

Belleville (CBC), however, takes another angle:

‘Some jump to the conclusion that women are being asked to submit either to their husbands or to male leadership. The command, however, is, “let a woman learn” not “let a woman submit.” How she is to learn is Paul’s concern. All too often, the fact is missed that Paul affirms that a woman should be allowed to learn and be instructed. This affirmation is no small thing. While a female student is hardly a novelty today, it was quite unusual in Paul’s day. Girls in the Greco-Roman period were taught the three “Rs.” But higher education past the age of 12, though on the rise, was still not commonplace. The verse may imply submission to a teacher. A submissive spirit was (and is) a necessary prerequisite for learning. This would not eliminate expression of one’s own opinions. It has more to do with a willingness to take direction. On the other hand, the verse may imply “self-restraint” or “self-control”. This sense appears in 1 Corinthians 14:32, where Paul states that those “who prophesy are in control of their spirit and can take turns.” In either case, Paul was not questioning a woman’s prerogative to learn as long as she did it “quietly” and “submissively.”’

I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man

What sort of teaching does the apostle prohibit?

Various interpretations – some inter-linked – of the passage as a whole, as regarding women not being allowed to teach:-

1. Not God’s word.  We simply do not accept the teaching.  This attitude may be linked to a conviction that the Pastoral Epistles were not written by Paul, and do not come with his apostolic authority.

2. Not fair.  Some would simply respond to this teaching subjectively, but saying, ‘It’s not fair’, or ‘I feel called to teach.’  But we may not judge God’s word by what we feel is fair or unfair.  Nor are our personal feelings to be trusted more than the written word of God.

3. Not applicable today.  Many refer to Gal 3:28, which says that ‘there is no male and female…for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’  This teaching, which, it is claimed, eradicates role differences between men and women, cancels out the teaching of the present chapter.  But Gal 3:28 does not eradicate role differences between men and women (it teaches that they, and other disparate groups, are equally accepted in Christ).  Moreover, the present chapter is by no means an isolated piece of teaching about men and women (cf. 1 Cor 11:3-16, 14:33b-35; Eph 5:21-33; Col 3:18-19; Titus 2:3-5; 1 Pet 3:1-7).

4. A concession to cultural norms.  Still others think that Paul here was making a concession to prevailing cultural norms, whereas in Gal 3:28 he indicates the right relationship between men and women.  But, again, the fact that the apostle appeals to Gen 2 and 3 weighs against this.  And in any case, Paul (along with Jesus) was happy to confront social norms where necessary.

5. Applies only to married women.  Another argument is that the restriction in the present chapter only applies to married women.  But the context (which supposes a setting in the local church, rather than the home) does not support this.

6. Prohibits women from any teaching role in the church.  It might be supposed that women were prohibited from teaching while the canon of the NT was still open, but may do so now that it is completed.  But, again, the logic is strained.  Elsewhere, women such as Eunice and Lois (2 Tim 1:5) and Priscilla (Acts 18:26) taught.  See also Titus 2:3-5.  But (it might be replied) this was not authoritative teaching in the context of the gathered church.  And as for women prophets, we note that prophesying (1 Cor 11) is distinguished from teaching in Rom 12:6-7; 1 Cor 12:28-29; Eph 4:11.

It is pretty clear that Paul does not forbid any and all kinds of teaching.

‘Paul is not saying that women are not competent to teach, or that they may never teach. Elsewhere he encourages women to teach other women and children (Titus 2:3-5; Eph 6:1; cf. 1 Tim 5:9-10), and commends the instruction a church leader received from his mother and grandmother (2 Tim 1:5, 3:14-15). He urges all believers to teach and encourage one another as they sing together (Col 3:16). Women also contribute to the Christian assembly in activities with the potential to teach, such as prophecy and prayer (1 Cor 11:4-5; 14:3-5, 12-19, 24-26, 31).’
Smith, Claire. God’s Good Design. Matthias Media. Kindle Edition.

7. Prohibits only authoritative teaching by women

This receives some support from the context, which does emphasise public worship.  Noting the close connection here between teaching and exercising authority, Craig Blomberg thinks it likely that this text ‘is not referring to all women being disallowed from all teaching over men or from all exercising of authority over men in the church (notice there are no further contextual limitations as long as we take these as mere activities or functions) but rather from being elders.’

Writing in EDBT (art. ‘Woman’), Blomberg makes a number of points:

    • ‘This prohibition cannot be absolute (recall Acts 18:26).’
    • ‘In view of Paul’s penchant for hendiadys, or pairs of largely synonymous expressions in 1 Timothy 2 (cf. vv. 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3, 4, 5, 7a, 7b, etc.), it is probable that “teach” and “have authority” are mutually interdefining—Paul is prohibiting “authoritative teaching.”’
    • ‘In view of the distinction between (apparently) all male overseers and both male and female deacons in 3:1–13, a plausible interpretation of 2:12 is that women may not hold the highest office in a given ecclesial context (perhaps roughly analogous to modern-day senior pastors in congregationally governed churches).’
    • ‘Egalitarians have regularly proposed some historical background (most notably the presence of heresy in Ephesus—1 Tim. 1:3–7) as the rationale for Paul’s mandate, which is then seen as culturally limited in application. But Paul’s own explanation appeals instead to the order of creation (1 Tim. 2:13); the explicit evidence of women’s roles in the Ephesian heresy elsewhere in the Pastorals is entirely limited to their roles as victims rather than propagators (2 Tim. 3:6–7).’

Some think that ‘teach’ in verse 12 is restricted to “carefully preserving and laying down for the congregation the traditions handed on by the apostles,” see here, but also here.

We should not conclude (says Smith) that women are prohibited from taking part appropriately in meetings of the gathered church (singing, praying, giving testimony, and so on), in private conversations, in academic life, and so on.  The restriction applies to authoritative teaching in a church setting.

Mounce presented an extended and nuanced discussion in his contribution to the Word Biblical Commentary.  Mounce notes that:

‘αὐθεντεῖν is a difficult word to define. It occurs nowhere else in the NT and rarely in secular Greek. Most agree that its basic meaning is either the neutral “to exercise authority” or the negative “to domineer” in the sense of exerting authority in a coercive manner. Either definition provides an adequate parallel to ὑποταγῇ, “submission,” in v 11.’

And Mounce comes to the following conclusion:

‘The question of the meaning of αὐθεντεῖν is not insignificant. If it means “to exercise authority,” then Paul is prohibiting any type of authoritative teaching (see the next phrase) that places a woman over a man (cf. 1 Cor 11:2–12; Eph 5:22–33; 1 Pet 3:1–7). If it means “to domineer” in a negative sense, then it is prohibiting a certain type of authoritative teaching, one that is administered in a negative, domineering, coercive way, thus leaving the door open for women to exercise teaching authority in a proper way over men. While word studies have their limitations, as Baldwin points out, he has proven his point. His definition of αὐθεντεῖν is also supported by the context in 1 Timothy. The parallel of αὐθεντεῖν with διδάσκειν, “teaching,” suggests that it is a positive term (see below). Especially Kroeger and Kroeger’s translation raises serious contextual problems. It seems doubtful that Paul would prohibit only women (and not men) from teaching in a coercive way, especially since the text only names male opponents (1 Tim 1:20; 2 Tim 2:17–18; 4:14).’

More recently (2018, Pillar) Yarbrough also concluded that the negative, or perjorative, meaning (referring to power that is wielded ‘in an abusive way or initiated in an undesirable manner’) was to be rejected in favour of the positive, meaning (referring to power that was exercised as ‘a neutral or positive pastoral activity’):

‘In light of recent research by Al Wolters, the negative renderings should be rejected. His very thorough canvassing of “cognates, immediate context, ancient versions, patristic commentary, and the broad use of the verb elsewhere” confirms that in this passage the word carries neither a negative nor an ingressive sense.’

Yarbrough continues:

‘Wolters’s findings are extended by Denny Burk in an inquiry into the validity of the NIV’s “assume authority” translation. He shows Linda Belleville’s claim to be mistaken that the weight of translation history is solely on the side of a negative or pejorative translation of authenteō…He concludes, in line with Wolters’s philological findings, that in 1 Tim 2:12 authenteō “denotes the positive exercise of authority over men (not its abuse or wrongful assumption).”’

8. Forbids women from teaching in an overbearing manner.  Some think that the problem was not that women were teaching men, but rather it was in the way they were teaching men.

This interpretation relies, to a certain extent, on regarding authenteo as qualifying didasko.  Paul would not then be forbidding a woman from either teaching or exercising authority over a man, but of teaching him in an overbearing manner.  Kostenberger objects that the connecting word oude (‘or) ‘is a coordinating than than a subordinating conjunction.’  This would mean that although the two activities (teaching and exercising authority) are distinct, although they have the same (positive or negative) force.  In other words (according to Kostenberger) since didasko is ‘almost certainly’ positive in its connotation, so also authenteo is likely to be.


‘The command for a quiet demeanor while learning and teaching suggests that women were disrupting worship.’

Paul would then perhaps be requiring women not to teach in a bossy way, or not without male oversight.  But this does not seem consistent with what Paul actually says.  He prohibits women to teach; he does not merely prohibit them from teaching in a particular way.

Paul is concerned that women should not be overbearing (and he would have said the same to men).

‘Exercise authority’ translates a rare Gk word authentein.  Bellleville writes that to the Greeks of the day, the term meant ‘to domineer’ or to ‘gain the upper hand’, writes Belleville, which argues that this is the meaning here (i.e. Paul is not forbidding the women to take authority, but rather to usurp authority).  But the lexical evidence is rather thin, for this word is found only here in the NT, and only two instances have been found in Greek literature antedating this epistle.

Instone-Brewer comments on this word:

‘Recent research has shown that this rare word (authenteō) was normally reserved for extreme situations of domination or manipulation, though in the centuries after the New Testament was written the meaning gradually changed to a gentler “have authority.” This means that earlier English translations (such as the Geneva Bible and KJV) got it about right when they translated it “usurp authority,” whereas some modern ones translate with a gentler phrase such as “have authority.”’

Marshall (ICC) concludes that this verse is referring specifically to learning and teaching:

‘The quiet demeanour and recognition of authority which are to characterise the learner are contrasted with teaching in a manner which is heavy-handed and abuses authority.’

Giles notes the singular ‘a woman’ and ‘a man’, and infers that Paul is envisaging a house-church situation in which individual women takes individual men to one side and brow-beat them with their views.  Such ‘brow-beating’ is, in Giles’ view, precisely what authentein implies.

Michael Bird thinks that ‘to teach’ and to ‘assume authority’ should be regarded as constituting a couplet, rather than defining two separate activities:

‘The beginning of 1 Timothy 2 has numerous couplets of synonymous ideas, such as “kings and all those in authority,” “peaceful and quiet lives,” “godliness and holiness” (v. 2), “this is good, and pleases God” (v. 3), “saved and … come to a knowledge of the truth” (v. 4), “a herald and an apostle,” “I am telling the truth, I am not lying” (v. 7), “anger or disputing” (v. 8), “decency and propriety” (v. 9), and “quietness and full submission” (v. 11). Given that context, it is probable that “to teach” and “to assume authority” are roughly approximate and refer to something like “exercising authority through teaching.”’  (Bourgeois Babes, Bossy Wives, and Bobby Haircuts)

Bird favours the view that

‘Paul restricts women from teaching from the position of elder and teaching the elders because the views that they are disseminating are bound up with the heresy he is repudiating in 1 Timothy, and because their conduct is having adverse effects on the elders, husbands, and the congregation in general in Ephesus.’

9. Addresses a local situation.  Some suggest that Paul was addressing local concerns about certain women causing trouble in the local congregation.  If so, we would need to explain why Paul doesn’t mention this anywhere in the passage, and why he would appeal to the foundational text of Gen 2 and 3 to support his argument.  The fact that he does suggests that his teaching transcends local and cultural practices, and applies at every time and in every situation.

For Instone-Brewer (Moral Questions of the Bible), the key problem was a general lack of education among the Ephesian women:

‘Paul concluded that females were uneducated and thereby too gullible to lead a church. His conclusion was sensible, and so was his proposed solution: to educate them. He’d be surprised that women are now well educated but are still often kept out of leadership.’

Kostenberger notes that

‘Paul isn’t grounding his prohibition of women teaching or having authority over men in the church in their inability to obtain equal access to education but in the creation order and the scenario at the fall.’

But some others think that the problem at Ephesus was more specific.

Marshall says that the verb διδασκεῖν ‘here connotes the task of conveying authoritative instruction in a congregational setting.’  But, he says, the context indicates that there was something wrong with the teaching being given by the women:

‘In itself the term says nothing as to the acceptability or otherwise of the teaching as such (contrast ἑτεροδιδασκάλειν, 1:3), but the context makes it clear that the prohibition is stated because there was something wrong with the teaching given by the women. Although, then, the prohibition may appear to be universally applicable to women, it is in fact meant for a specific group of women among the recipients of the letter.’

We know that there were false teachers at Ephesus, 1 Tim 1:3-4; 1 Tim 1:6-7.   The false teaching led to a disregard for proper decorum in the church, and to a rejection of the institution of marriage, 1 Tim 4:3.  Note how Paul addresses young widows, 1 Tim 5:9-15, urging them to marry, raise children, and manage their homes.  Neglect of such roles and relationships was leading to these women becoming bossy busybodies, 1 Tim 5:13.  It is quite plausible, then, that the women in the Ephesian congregation were either particularly affected by, or even the primary advocates of, the false teaching (see also 2 Tim 3:6-9).  So, where Paul has in 1 Tim 1:3 already placed a general prohibition on those who teach false doctrines, he here focuses specifically on the women who have become particularly involved with it.  They are to stop advocating ideas that are alien to the Christian faith, and instead ‘learn in quietness and full submission’ (submission, that is, to the elders of the church; although it is to be noted that all learners were expected to adopt an attitude of quietness and submission, cf. 1 Tim 2:2).

This is the view of Spencer, who explains:

‘In light of the heterodox teaching and learning at Ephesus, Paul highlights the women in particular as needing to learn but not yet teach, most likely because of their unpreparedness in withstanding heterodoxy, a heterodoxy that may have been especially appealing to the women at Ephesus. Paul focuses on teaching because the teacher especially is one who must be qualified to teach the truth and Paul wanted to make sure they understood God’s teachings. However, all women everywhere were not dissuaded from teaching. Prisca, along with her husband Aquila (admired coworkers of Paul), certainly taught Apollos with great accuracy (Acts 18:25–26) and the female elders at Crete were to teach (Titus 2:3). In addition, women had a long history as religious leaders: prophets, wise women, apostles, church overseers, and ministers.’

Wright (cited by the Kostenbergers)

‘points to the Artemis cult with its goddess worship and female priestesses and claims that Paul’s message is “that women must have the space and leisure to study and learn in their own way, not in order that they may muscle in and take over the leadership as in the Artemis-cult.”’

According to R.C. and C.C. Kroeger,

‘There is evidence that there may have been a distortion of the Adam and Eve story (2 Cor. 11:2–4, 13–15; 1 Tim. 1:4; 2 Tim. 4:4; Titus 1:14) similar to Gnostic theologies that portrayed Eve as a celestial power and as the one who brought life and light to Adam through the serpent’s gift of knowledge. First Timothy 2:11–15 may then be a refutation of such doctrines rather than a rationale for the restriction of women.’ (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology)

Marshall (ICC) responds:

‘In the course of three attempts to adduce the term’s meaning, Kroeger has depended upon the word-group’s associations in some cases with violence, murder and erotic seductive power, and attempted to see in it a reference to practices associated with the heresy, possibly showing the influence of the Artemis cult. This led her first to the conclusion that the term means ‘to engage in fertility cults’ (1979; see the criticisms in Panning and Osburn) and finally to the meaning ‘to proclaim oneself the author or originator of another’ (Kroeger and Kroeger, 87–104). Though ideas of ‘authorship’ and ‘origination’ can be linked to the word-group (cf. 2 Clement 14:3), it is hard to see how the verb can be understood to mean ‘to proclaim oneself …’.’

Marshall judges the Kroegers’ reconstruction of the Ephesian background to this epistle to be ‘highly conjectural.’

Keener (DPL, art. ‘Man and Woman’) says that the Kroegers’ case would be more plausible if 1 Timothy were written by someone other than Paul in the 2nd century (but the Kroegers’ do not think this is the case).

I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man

Bound up in the debate is the question of whether ‘to teach’ and ‘to exercise authority’ are two separate (though related) activities, or are synonymous.  Kostenberger thinks the former.  Giles, however, concludes that the latter is the case.  Giles is satisfied that the Payne and Belleville have each independently shown that Kostenberger’s arguments are ‘without merit’.  For Giles, then,

‘The prohibition forbids one thing, teaching in an authentein manner.’
‘The word rendered to have authority (authenteō) means ‘to have the mastery of’ or more colloquially ‘lord it over’. In public meetings Christian women must refrain from laying down the law to men and hence are enjoined to silence. It may be that Paul has mainly in mind married women and that man should be here understood as ‘husband’, although this would not be so relevant if church meetings are mainly in view. Indeed, the concluding injunction to silence could not apply to the Christian home and the whole verse must therefore relate to the assembly.’ (Guthrie)

Kevin Giles (What the Bible Actually Teaches on Women) argues forcefully (Giles always argues forcefully, if not always convincingly!) and mainly on linguistic grounds (but relying heavily on the work of other egalitarians, especially Philip Payne and Cynthia Westfall):

‘The complementarian argument that authentein is a positive word referring to the rightful authority a male pastor exercises, excluded to women, has nothing to commend it.’
‘The rendering of authentein as “authority” in a positive or neutral sense
1. ‘…is a modern phenomenon.’
2. ‘…is not supported by the meaning of the cognate nouns, authentēs and authentia.’
3. ‘…is not supported by the etymology of the verb.’
4. ‘…has no support at all in literary texts and non-literary material before or around the time of Paul.’
5. ‘…has no support on the basis of “systemic functional linguistics and discourse analysis.”
6. ‘…is not supported by the context.’

On the first point, Giles elaborates:

‘“There is virtually unbroken tradition, stemming from the oldest translations down to the twenty-first century, that translates this verb as “to dominate,” or sometimes “to usurp authority.” [Quoting Belleville].  In the Authorized Version of 1611 the Greek is translated into English as “to usurp authority,” and in the somewhat literal translation, the Revised Version of 1885, it is rendered “to have dominion over.” These translations are to be preferred to the neutral word “authority” because they give a distinctive meaning for this distinctive word. The Greek verb exousiazein is accurately taken to mean to exercise rightful authority; authentein is not.’

I think that this argumentation is a bit confused.  ‘To dominate’ is not the same as ‘to usurp authority’.  The first is about attitude while the second is about right.  So, when older translations and commentaries understanding the apostle to be forbidding a woman from usurping the authority of a man, they often (and perhaps usually) mean that a woman should not assume the authority in a man which is rightfully his, and not hers.  It is true that many of the older commentators regrettably taught that women were inherently inferior to men.  But (as Giles correctly points out) modern complementarians uniformly distance themselves from such an opinion.  And this does not materially affect the debate about the meaning of authentein here.

Before we jump to the conclusion that this prohibition against women teaching or having authority over a man can be transferred directly into our own time and culture, we should reflect that Paul also appear to require male elders to be married, and to have children who are believers, respectful and obedient (Tit 1:6).  He seems to exclude not only women, but also single men, childless married men, and married men with unbelieving, disrespectful, or disobedient children, and so on.

See here for a discussion of this passage by David Atkinson.

She must remain quiet

‘Quiet’ (and ‘quietly’ a little earlier) does not mean, according to Belleville, ‘in silence’ (AV, RSV), but with a quiet and teachable disposition; with ‘a quiet demeanour’.  Cf. 1 Thess 4:11; 2 Thess 3:12.

Spencer notes that such a disposition is encouraged in the OT (see, for example, Prov 17:27f):

Hēsychios (adjective), hēsychia (noun), and hēsychazō (verb) in the New Testament always have positive connotations. Hēsychios has positive connotations in 1 Timothy 2:2 when all Christians are encouraged to lead a “quiet” life, a life free from persecution by rulers. In an educational setting, it refers to the state of calm, restraint at the proper time, respect, and affirmation of a speaker. It does not necessarily refer to not speaking. When the circumcision party heard from Peter how the Lord had saved Cornelius and his household, “they were silenced and praised God saying: ‘Then also to the Gentiles God gave repentance that leads to life’ ” (Acts 11:17–18). Thus, the first act they did after they “were silent” was speak!’

Spencer adds that this word group also refers, in both OT (see Isa 66:2, for example) and NT, to calm and rest (as opposed to working and fighting).

Marshall agrees:

‘In the present context listening quietly with deference and attentiveness to the one teaching is indicated. Other forms of utterance (praying, singing, prophesying, encouraging) are not ruled out; the limited reference here is to speaking out of turn and thereby interrupting the lesson.’

For Adam was formed first and then Eve.

It is generally agreed that Paul is giving here a rationale for the prohibition just stated.  This would be the usual significance of the conjunction gar (‘for’).

For Kostenberger, this indicates that male leadership if based on primogeniture:

‘According to Paul, priority in creation entails primacy with regard to the exercise of authority in the church. Creation order comes prior to the fall, so Paul’s argument concerning the male church leaders’ authority and women’s submission is not a result of the fall (cf. 1 Cor. 11: 3). This refutes one of the central planks in the argument that authority is inherently improper and merely the result of the fall. Authority is good if exercised properly and predates the fall.’

But Hess, (in Discovering Biblical Equality) objects:

‘Male leadership advocates… often cite 1 Timothy 2:13 as evidence that Paul understood the sequential creation of humanity to imply an intended hierarchy of man over woman, especially in light of conventions of ancient Near Eastern culture regarding the rights of the firstborn son—primogeniture.
‘Such an argument is problematic for several reasons.
‘First, no rights of the firstborn found in Scripture provide a logical connection to creation order as establishing authority.
‘Second, the norm among the patriarchs is not primogeniture but God’s blessing on the second or third born (e.g., Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, Joseph over his brothers, Ephraim over Manasseh, etc.).
‘Third, in the biblical laws only Deuteronomy 21:15–17 mentions this principle in the context of the firstborn son of an unloved wife. There the basis for the right of the firstborn is found in the statement because he “is the first sign of his father’s strength” (NIV). This is the only biblical text that could be construed as a rationale for primogeniture (there are no parallel texts that speak to this issue). (Formatting added)

P.B. Payne objects that

‘Nothing in Genesis teaches that creation order establishes man’s priority over woman. God created the plants and animals before man, yet to whom did God give dominion? Was it not the one created later? In fact, the leadership of the one born later is a major Old Testament theme: Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, Judah over his older brothers, Moses over Aaron, David over his brothers, and so on.’

Unfortunately, Payne does not explain what Paul does mean here, if he does not mean primogeniture.

Kevin Giles rejects the complementarian view that ‘created second indicates that woman is second in status, or in complementarian terms, has the subordinate “role.”’  (What the Bible Actually Teaches on Women, p60).

According to Giles, ‘John Calvin with his usual clear-sightedness said, the argument that woman is second in rank because she was created second does “not seem very strong for John the Baptist was before Christ in time, yet was far inferior to him.”’

Here is that quotation, in context:

‘He gives two reasons why women should be subject to men, that God imposed this as a law from the beginning, and also that He inflicted it upon women by way of punishment.  Thus he teaches that, even if the human race had remained in its original integrity, the true order of nature prescribed by God lays it down that woman should be subject to man.  And it is no objection to this to argue that Adam by his fall from his first dignity deprived himself of his authority, for in the ruins that result from sin there remain some remnants of the divine blessing, for it would not be right that woman should improve her position by her sin.  Still, Paul’s argument, that woman is subject because she was created second, does not seem to be very strong, for John the Baptist went before Christ in time and yet was far inferior to Him.  But Paul, although he does not explain all the circumstances related by Moses in Genesis, nevertheless intended that his readers should take them into account.  The teaching of Moses is that woman was created later to be a kind of appendage to the man of the express condition that she should be ready to obey him.  Thus, since God did not create two “heads” of equal standing, but added to the man a lesser helpmeet, the apostle is right to remind us of the order of their creating in which God’s eternal and inviolable appointment is clearly displayed.’

It can be seen that Giles’ quotation of Calvin is misleading, for it comes in the middle of the passage in which the great Reformer is explaining and defending the very doctrine which Giles despises.  This is ironic, since Giles, just a few sentences previously, has accused the Kostenbergers of an ‘entirely un-scholarly methodology.’

2:14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman, because she was fully deceived, fell into transgression.

Here Paul gives a second reason for his earlier prohibition.  Kostenberger comments:

‘Was Adam not also deceived? In verses 13– 14, Paul is simply reading the Genesis narrative and registering some basic observations. The Serpent approached and deceived the woman, not the man. Why did the Serpent approach the woman when the man was in charge and had received both the direct mandate to cultivate the garden and the direct prohibition from God concerning the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? Paul reminds his readers what happened historically when the woman acted apart from the man, leading him into disobedience, rather than the man fulfilling his role and leading the woman.’

v15 – But she will be delivered through childbearing

Among seven or more different interpretations (Kostenberger), this has been taken to mean:-

1. She will be brought safely through childbearing

JB Phillips: ‘will come safely through childbirth’.

Fee responds:

‘But besides simply not being true to reality—many Christian mothers have died in childbirth—Paul’s use of the word saved throughout these letters disallows it (he always means redemption, from sin and for eternal life, as in 1:15–16 and 2:4). Moreover he uses an entirely different word for the idea of being “kept safe” throughout his letters (see, e.g., 2 Tim. 3:11 and 4:18)’.

Moreover, if this is the meaning, why does Paul add, ‘if they continue in faith’?

Marshall agrees that safety in childbirth is irrelevant to the present argument.

2. She will be saved through the birth of a child (namely, Jesus)

So Warfield, Oden, Knight, Spencer, Guthrie (tentatively) and others.

Belleville (CBC):

‘“Women” is actually the singular “she,” referring to Eve. “Through childbearing” is literally “through the childbearing,” that is, the birth of Jesus Christ. Paul is not saying that salvation for women comes through the bearing of children. He is referring to Gen 3:15 and the statement “I will cause hostility between you [Satan] and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He [Christ] will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”’

See also this article by Jared M. August in support of this interpretation.

But this interpretation (claims Fee) would be a rather obscure way of saying that.  Marshall agrees that it would be ‘highly cryptic’.  And, if this is the meaning, why does Paul imply that this applies particularly to women?

3. She is to follow the path of holiness by fulfilling her domestic functions

Rather than usurping the male leadership role, she will be kept safe if she fulfils her own God-given role (of which childbearing is a representative part), kept safe in her God-given female responsibilities (of which childbearing is a notable example).  NEB: ‘will be saved through motherhood’ (NEB); REB: ‘salvation for the woman will be in the bearing of children’.  This, in essence, is Smith’s interpretation.


‘Adam already perceived that by God’s grace the curse of child-bearing (think of its painful character) was changed into a blessing (Gen. 3:20). Because of the prospect of child-bearing Adam’s wife was named Eve, that is “Life” (the mother of all living). Paul takes up this thought and develops it.’  Fee: ‘what Paul intends is that woman’s salvation, from the transgressions brought about by similar deception and ultimately for eternal life, is to be found in her being a model, godly woman, known for her good works (v. 10; cf. 5:11). And her good deeds, according to 5:11 and 14, include marriage, bearing children (the verb form of this noun), and keeping a good home.’

So also Mounce (WBC).

Kostenberger find a close parallel later in 1 Timothy 5:14f:

‘I want younger women to marry, raise children, and manage a household, in order to give the adversary no opportunity to vilify us.  For some have already wandered away to follow Satan.’

In the light of this, writes Kostenberger,

“childbearing” in 1 Timothy 2: 15 is likely shorthand for women’s involvement in the domestic sphere.’

If, according to 1 Tim 4:3, some women were rejecting marriage altogether, then

using 1 Timothy 4: 3 to interpret 1 Timothy 2: 15,…it’s reasonable to assume that some viewed childbearing as inferior, just as they viewed marriage as inferior. If so, Paul may be saying here that childbearing is not to be despised but is a noble calling.

Michael Bird offers a version of this interpretation, suggesting that Paul is opposing a view promoted by the false teachers:

‘Most likely, this verse is an attack on the heresy that maintained the opposite view, namely, that women are saved by not experiencing childbirth (for Eve was childless prior to the fall). Being childless through abstinence or abortion would also free up progressive wives to become women of leisure along the lines of the new bourgeois Roman wives. Paul urges women to embrace their identity precisely as Christian women instead of finding liberty in the heresy. Paul wants women to continue in faith, love, and holiness as the condition of salvation. Furthermore, if we see traces of the heresy lying behind verse 15, why not a response to it in verses 12–14 as well? By drawing attention to Eve’s role in the fall (v. 14) and her deference to Adam by divine design (v. 13), Paul is cutting the legs out from underneath the heresy that some women were advocating. The content of this heresy was something along the lines of a rewriting of the creation story that sought to subordinate their husbands or key church leaders beneath their own authority.’  (Bourgeois Babes, Bossy Wives, and Bobby Haircuts)

However, as with (1) above, this interpretation uses the word ‘salvation’ in a way not used elsewhere in the PEs.  Here, it may be referring to the eschatological salvation of which holiness (including a godly approach to relationships within the church and the family) is the essential outworking (so Schreiner).  Kostenberger suggests, as an alternative, that sozo here carries the broader meaning of ‘rescue’ or ‘protection’.  In this case, the women would, by adopting Paul’s counsel, be protecting themselves from error and from satanic deception.

4. David Instone-Brewer (Moral Questions of the Bible) links this with what Paul has said previously about women not exercising dominance over men.  Women had limited opportunities to do this, but they they could undermine male authority in a several ways.  According to early rabbinic saying, ‘Women die in childbirth for three reasons—because they are not meticulous in the laws of menstrual separation, of dough offering, and of kindling the Sabbath lamp.’  Paul, instead of saying, ‘Women will die in childbirth if…’, writes, ‘Women will be saved in childbirth if…’.  Then, instead of listing three things that women must do, he mentions three things that they must be: full of ‘faith, love and holiness’.

2:13 For Adam was formed first and then Eve. 2:14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman, because she was fully deceived, fell into transgression.

For – ‘“For” can be causal, in which case Paul would be invoking creation order and proneness to deception as reasons why a woman must not teach a man. This is theologically problematic, however. Proneness to deception is something that is endemic to the human race after the Fall. While Paul does assert that all human beings without exception sin (e.g., Rom 3:9–20), at no time does he suggest that women are more susceptible to sin’s deceiving activity than men. In the case of the Ephesian community, it was two men (not women) who were expelled for false teaching that stemmed from personal deception (1:20).’ (Belleville)

Adam was formed first and then Eve – See Gen 2:21f.  Belleville does not think that this necessarily implies either male superiority or functional priority.  But Paul’s teaching at this point may be intended to provide a corrective to that of the cult of Artemis, whose perceived superiority was linked to her having come out of her mother’s womb first, then helping her mother to give birth to her twin brother.

Adam was not deceived, but the woman – Yes, that also is true, according to Gen 3:13.  Adam sinned, but he was not deceived.

Video: Man, Woman, Deception and Authority in 1 Timothy 2

Again, Paul’s argument from the created order (see also 1 Cor 11:7-9) has been understood in various ways:-

  1. It is possible that the argument is ad hoc: if Eve’s deception is appealed to as a reason for all women from teaching, then Paul is arguing that women generally are more easily deceived than men.
  2. It may be that Paul’s intention is to use Eve to illustrate the local situation in Ephesus, where the women are easily deceived because they are untaught.

‘As Adam has served elsewhere as the representative man, through whose sin all mankind came into sinfulness (Rom. 5:12, 19), so here Eve serves as the “representative” woman, who through her deception by Satan became a sinner (lit., “came to be in transgression”).’ (Fee)

What Paul does appear to be saying is that there is a God-given distinction between the two sexes.  This is not to do with intelligence, giftedness, usefulness, and so on, but creational intent.  And there are serious practical implications for both men and women.  If the latter are to follow Paul’s instructions here, then the men will have to step up to their responsibilities.

2:15 But she will be delivered through childbearing, if she continues in faith and love and holiness with self-control.