This entry is part 110 of 119 in the series: Tough texts
- Genesis 1:26 – Why a plural name for God?
- Genesis 3 – traditional and revisionist readings
- Genesis 3:16b – ‘Your desire shall be for your husband’
- Genesis 5 – the ages of the antedeluvians
- Genesis 6:1f – ‘The sons of God’
- Genesis 6-8 – A worldwide flood?
- Genesis 12:3 – ‘I will bless those who bless you’
- Genesis 15:16 – ‘The sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its limit’
- Genesis 22 – “Abraham, kill your son”
- Exodus – Who hardened Pharaoh’s heart?
- Exodus 12:37 – How many Israelites left Egypt?
- Leviticus 19:18 “Love your neighbour as yourself”
- Deuteronomy 23:6 – ‘Never be kind to a Moabite’?
- Joshua 6 – the fall of Jericho
- Joshua 10 – Joshua’s ‘long day’
- Judges 19:11-28 – The priest and the concubine
- 1 Samuel 16:14 – ‘An evil spirit from the Lord’
- 1 Samuel 28:7-14 – Did Samuel visit from the grave?
- 2 Samuel 1:26 – ‘More special than the love of women’
- 2 Sam 24:1, 1 Chron 21:1 – Who incited David?
- 1 Kings 20:30 – ‘The wall collapsed on 27,000 of them’
- Psalm 105:15 – ‘Touch not my anointed’
- Psalm 137:8f – ‘Happy is he who dashes your infants against the rocks’
- Isaiah 7:14/Matthew 1:23 – “The virgin will conceive”
- Daniel 7:13 – ‘Coming with the clouds of heaven’
- Jonah – history or fiction?
- Mt 1:1-17 and Lk 3:23-38 – the genealogies of Jesus
- Matthew 2:1 – ‘Magi from the east’
- Matthew 2:2 – The star of Bethlehem
- Matthew 2:8f – Can God speak through astrology?
- Matthew 2:23 – ‘Jesus would be called a Nazarene’
- Matthew 5:21f – Did Jesus reject the Old Testament?
- Matthew 7:16,20 – ‘You will recognise them by their fruit’
- Matthew 8:5/Luke 7:3 – Who asked Jesus to help?
- Matthew 8:5/Luke 7:7 – son? servant? male lover?
- Matthew 8:22/Luke 9:60 – ‘Let the dead bury their dead’?
- Matthew 8:28 – Gadara or Gerasa?
- Matthew 10:23 – ‘Before the Son of Man comes’
- Mt 10:28/Lk 12:4f – Whom should we fear?
- Matthew 10:28 – ‘destroy’: annihilation or everlasting punishment?
- Matthew 10:34 – ‘Not peace, but a sword’?
- Matthew 11:12 – Forceful entry, or violent opposition, to the kingdom?
- Mt 12:30/Mk 9:40/Lk 11:23 – For, or against?
- Matthew 12:40 – Three days and three nights
- The Parable of the Sower – return from exile?
- Mt 15:21-28/Mk 7:24-30 – Jesus and the Canaanite woman
- Mt 16:28/Mk 9:1/Lk 9:27 – “Some standing here will see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom”
- Matthew 18:10 – What about ‘guardian angels’?
- Matthew 18:20 – ‘Where two or three are gathered…’
- Matthew 16:18 – Peter the rock?
- Matthew 21:7 – One animal or two?
- Mt 24:34/Mk 13:30 – ‘This generation will not pass away’
- Matthew 25:40 – ‘These brothers of mine’
- Matthew 27:46/Mark 15:34 – Jesus’ cry of dereliction
- Matthew 27:52f – Many bodies raised?
- Mark 1:41 – ‘Compassion’, or ‘anger/indignation’?
- Mark 2:25f – ‘When Abiathar was high priest’
- Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10 – The unpardonable sin
- Mark 4:31 – ‘The smallest of all the seeds’?
- Mark 6:45 – ‘To Bethsaida’
- Mark 12:41-44/Luke 21:1-4 – ‘The widow’s mite’
- Luke 2:1f – Quirinius and ‘the first registration’
- Luke 2 – Was Joseph from Nazareth, or Bethlehem?
- Luke 2:7 – ‘No room at the inn’
- Luke 2:8 – Shepherds: a despised class?
- Luke 2:39 – No room for a flight into Egypt?
- Luke 4:16-19 – An incomplete quotation?
- Luke 7:2 – ‘Highly valued servant’ or ‘gay lover’?
- Luke 14:26 – Hate your family?
- Luke 22:36 – ‘Sell your cloak and buy a sword’
- John 1:1 – ‘The Word was God’
- John 2:6 – symbol or history?
- John 2:12 – Did Mary bear other children?
- Mt 21/Mk 11/Lk 19/Jn 2 – When (and how many times) did Jesus cleanse the Temple?
- John 3:16f – What is meant by ‘the world’?
- John 4:44 – ‘His own country’
- John 7:40-44 – Did John know about Jesus’ birthplace?
- John 7:53-8:11 – The woman caught in adultery
- John 10:8 – “All who came before me were thieves and robbers”
- John 10:34 – “You are gods”
- John 14:6 – “No one comes to the Father except through me”
- John 14:12 – ‘Greater deeds’
- John 20:21 – “Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.”
- John 21:11 – One hundred and fifty three fish
- Acts 5:1-11 – Ananias and Sapphira
- Acts 5:34-37 – a (minor) historical inaccuracy?
- Romans 1:5 – ‘The obedience of faith’
- Romans 1:18 – Wrath: personal or impersonal?
- Rom 3:22; Gal 2:16 – faith in, or faithfulness of Christ?
- Romans 5:18 – ‘Life for all?’
- Rom 7:24 – Who is the ‘wretched man’?
- Romans 10:4 – ‘Christ is the end of the law’
- Romans 11:26a – ‘And so all Israel will be saved’
- Romans 16:7 – ‘Junia…well known to the apostles’
- 1 Corinthians 14:34 – ‘Women should be silent in the churches’
- 1 Corinthians 15:28 – ‘The Son himself will be subjected to [God]’
- 1 Corinthians 15:29 – ‘Baptized for the dead’
- 1 Corinthians 15:44 – ‘Raised a spiritual body’
- 2 Corinthians 5:21 – ‘God made Christ to be sin for us’
- Galatians 3:17 – How much later?
- Galatians 3:28 – ‘Neither male nor female’
- Galatians 6:2 – ‘The law of Christ’
- Galatians 6:16 – The Israel of God
- Ephesians 1:10 – ‘The fullness of the times’
- Philippians 2:10 – ‘The name that is above every name’
- 1 Cor 11:3/Eph 5:23 – ‘Kephale’: ‘head’? ‘source’? ‘foremost’?
- Colossians 1:19f – Universal reconciliation?
- 1 Thessalonians 2:14f – ‘The Jews, who killed Jesus’
- 1 Timothy 2:4 – ‘God wants all people to be saved’
- 1 Timothy 2:11f – ‘I do not allow woman to teach or exercise authority over a man’
- 1 Timothy 4:10 – ‘The Saviour of all people’
- Hebrews 6:4-6 – Who are these people?
- Hebrews 12:1 – Who are these witnesses?
- 1 Peter 3:18-20 – Christ and the spirits in prison
- 2 Peter 1:4 – ‘Partakers of the divine nature’
- 2 Peter 3:9 – ‘The Lord wishes all to come to repentance’
- Jude 7 – ‘Unnatural desire’
- Revelation 7:4 – The 144,000
- Revelation 14:11 – ‘No rest day or night’
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:
- Given that the Greek is the same, when Paul refers to ‘a woman’ and ‘a man’ does he mean husbands and wives only?
- Given that the singular is used, Is he thinking of women and men collectively, or as individuals.
- Do ‘learning quietly’ and ‘remaining quiet’ imply complete silence, or simply restraint?
- To whom (or what) is the woman to be submissive? To the men? To God? To the teachers? To the teaching?
- Does ‘teach and exercise authority’ refer to one activity, or to two?
- Is the teaching informal, or formal, or both?
- 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)?
- 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?
- Does Paul’s argument that Adam was ‘formed first’ imply male authority?
- Does Paul mean that women generally (or the Ephesian women specifically) are more prone to error?
- 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.
5. 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).
8. 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.
10. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.’
But 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.’
‘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).”’
7. 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.
Lack of education
6. 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).
‘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)
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’.
‘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.
‘“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.
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’.