What if 1 Timothy 2:12-15 is not about women teaching and dominating men at church? What if it is about a husband and wife at home? Or does the house church merge the domestic and public spheres? What would that mean for church policy and women teachers out in public?
Paul’s words coming in the context of the domestic sphere opens up all sorts of new possibilities. This may free women up to teach in a church setting and the domestic domain, if they drop any superior attitude (as all disciples should).
The translation is mine, unless otherwise noted. I produce this translation just to learn what Paul really wrote. If you don’t read Greek, ignore the left column and read the one on the right.
This article is divided into four main sections:
REPLIES TO POSSIBLE OBJECTIONS
If you want to see many translations, I encourage you to click on biblegateway.com.
This post is exploratory, without being dogmatic. As usual, I write to learn. Read it in that light. Learn with me.
|1 Παρακαλῶ οὖν πρῶτον πάντων ποιεῖσθαι δεήσεις προσευχὰς ἐντεύξεις εὐχαριστίας ὑπὲρ πάντων ἀνθρώπων, 2 ὑπὲρ βασιλέων καὶ πάντων τῶν ἐν ὑπεροχῇ ὄντων, ἵνα ἤρεμον καὶ ἡσύχιον βίον διάγωμεν ἐν πάσῃ εὐσεβείᾳ καὶ σεμνότητι. 3 τοῦτο καλὸν καὶ ἀπόδεκτον ἐνώπιον τοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν θεοῦ, 4 ὃς πάντας ἀνθρώπους θέλει σωθῆναι καὶ εἰς ἐπίγνωσιν ἀληθείας ἐλθεῖν.
5 Εἷς γὰρ θεός, εἷς καὶ μεσίτης θεοῦ καὶ ἀνθρώπων, ἄνθρωπος Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς, 6 ὁ δοὺς ἑαυτὸν ἀντίλυτρον ὑπὲρ πάντων, τὸ μαρτύριον καιροῖς ἰδίοις.
7 εἰς ὃ ἐτέθην ἐγὼ κῆρυξ καὶ ἀπόστολος, ἀλήθειαν λέγω οὐ ψεύδομαι, διδάσκαλος ἐθνῶν ἐν πίστει καὶ ἀληθείᾳ.
8 Βούλομαι οὖν προσεύχεσθαι τοὺς ἄνδρας ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ ἐπαίροντας ὁσίους χεῖρας χωρὶς ὀργῆς καὶ διαλογισμοῦ.
9 Ὡσαύτως [καὶ] γυναῖκας ἐν καταστολῇ κοσμίῳ μετὰ αἰδοῦς καὶ σωφροσύνης κοσμεῖν ἑαυτάς, μὴ ἐν πλέγμασιν καὶ χρυσίῳ ἢ μαργαρίταις ἢ ἱματισμῷ πολυτελεῖ, 10 ἀλλ’ ὃ πρέπει γυναιξὶν ἐπαγγελλομέναις θεοσέβειαν, δι’ ἔργων ἀγαθῶν. 11 Γυνὴ ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ μανθανέτω ἐν πάσῃ ὑποταγῇ·
12 διδάσκειν δὲ γυναικὶ οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω οὐδὲ αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός, ἀλλ’ εἶναι ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ. 13 Ἀδὰμ γὰρ πρῶτος ἐπλάσθη, εἶτα Εὕα. 14 καὶ Ἀδὰμ οὐκ ἠπατήθη, ἡ δὲ γυνὴ ἐξαπατηθεῖσα ἐν παραβάσει γέγονεν·
15 σωθήσεται δὲ διὰ τῆς τεκνογονίας, ἐὰν μείνωσιν ἐν πίστει καὶ ἀγάπῃ καὶ ἁγιασμῷ μετὰ σωφροσύνης·
|1 I exhort, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, petitions, and thanksgiving be made for all people, 2 for all kings and everyone in eminent places, so that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in complete godliness and reverent dignity. 3 This is good and acceptable before our Savior God, 4 who wants all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth.
5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and people, 6 the human being Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for everyone, the witness at the proper time.
7 For this purpose I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am speaking the truth; I do not lie), and teacher of the nations, in faith and truth.
8 And so I counsel men to pray in all places as they lift up holy hands without anger and dispute. 9 Likewise, (I counsel) women to adorn themselves with respectable apparel, in modesty and self-control, not with plaited hair and gold and pearls or costly clothes, 10 but with what is appropriate for a woman professing reverent godliness, through good works. 11 Let a woman learn in quietness, in all submission.
12 But I do not permit a wife to teach nor dominate a husband, but to be in quietness, 13 for Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman, because she was deceived, became transgressive. 15 But she shall be preserved through childbirth, if they remain in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
I like to number my points for clarity and conciseness.
1.. In vv. 1-6 Paul uses the broad noun anthrōpos, which in most contexts means “human being” or “person.” In plural it can mean “people” or “human beings.” It can even mean “humankind” or “human.” Larry J. Perkins, in The Pastoral Letters: A Handbook of the Greek Text (Baylor, 2017), pp. 29-30, has “human beings” and “human being” for Jesus the Mediator. Conservative translations which always translate it as “man” or “men” are, to be blunt, but (I hope) respectful, wrong. The term anthrōpos is most often generic, depending on the context. And in vv. 1-6, the context says it is definitely generic.
2.. In v. 1, Paul’s use of generic anthrōpos makes sense because the church is to pray for all peoples, not just church members.
3.. In v. 4, God wants all people or all human beings to be saved—not just men.
4.. In v. 5, Jesus is the Mediator between God and all people; he is not the Mediator between God and men (alone). So the context is theological and about God’s relationship with humanity, both men and women.
5.. In v. 8, Paul now comes back to exhorting the Christian community, which he had begun in vv. 1-2a, as seen in the word “prayer.” It is not likely that he would demand unbelievers to pray (see 1 Cor. 5:12).
It is important to realize that culturally we are not only talking about the Christian community, but this is also about the Christian household, because the church met in houses (see 1 Tim. 5:13; 2 Tim. 1:16; 4:19).
6.. Also, in v. 8, Paul introduces another noun, anēr (and andr– which is its form in the other cases, so I refer to the stem andr– from here on). Yes, in many—almost all—contexts, it can have the narrower meaning of “man” or “husband”; it is not generic “humankind” (except rarely) in the NT.
7.. In v. 9, Paul introduces for the first time in Chapter 2 the noun gunē (and gunaik-, which is its form in the other cases), He pairs it with andr-, and this pairing very often means “wife,” and andr– then means “husband.” From here on I refer to the gunaik- stem.
In the domestic domain of vv. 8-9 (all the way to v. 15), husbands should lift up holy hands without anger and dispute. Augustine, writing a few centuries later, in his Confessions, describes domestic violence and of course he says no to it. He also reports that Christian households were getting better at not doing this, happily. It is easy to imagine that in the first century Paul was advocating that Christian husbands must not to use their hands for fighting (or hitting in domestic life) and to stop the anger and quarreling in the household; instead of being highhanded in strife (cf. Num. 15:30-31), husbands should lift up their hands in prayer. Paul too was putting a stop to any violence or threats with raised hands.
Paul told Titus to appoint elders who were not “overbearing, quick-tempered, or violent” […] (Titus 1:7-8, NIV, emphasis added). He told Timothy that an elder must be “temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money” (1 Tim. 3:2-3, NIV, emphasis added). One gets the impression that a few “average Christians” struggled to avoid some of those negative things and to do the positive things and so were excluded from being an elder.
However, my speculation about possible domestic violence is based on the two allied terms “anger” and “quarreling.” My entire thesis does not hang on it.
And so in that light, in my translation, I have not yet made the transition to the domestic sphere in vv. 8-9. I don’t want to push too hard, too fast. Let’s ease into the idea at v. 12.
8.. In any case, examples of marital status with the pairing of the two nouns andr- and gunaik- follow:
Joseph and Mary are called andr– and gunaik– or husband and wife (Matt. 1:16, 19). Betrothal was a binding contract and only “putting her away” (or divorce) could break it..
In a context about divorce, andr– and gunaik– are best translated as “husband” and “wife” (Mark 10:2, 12; Luke 16:18, but see Matt. 19:3 which pairs an anthrōpos with a gunaik-).
Anna lived with her andr– (husband) for many years (Luke 2:36).
The woman at the well had five andr- (husbands) (John 4:16-18).
Ananias and Sapphira were married, and Ananias was called her andr– (husband) (Acts 5:9-10).
In the context of divorce and adultery and death, a husband (andr-) and wife (gunaik-) are referred to (Rom. 7:1-3).
First Cor. 7 is replete with references to andr– and gunaik– as married couples.
In 1 Cor. 14:34-35, women are supposed to remain quiet in church and ask their husbands andr– at home, so this is clearly a domestic context, much as it is here in 1 Tim. 2:8-15.
In Eph. 5:21-33, a major teaching on household peace, the terms andr– and gunaik– or husband and wife appear many times.
And the same goes for Col. 3:18-19, as in Eph. 5:21-33.
In 1 Tim. 3:2 an elder should be an andr– (husband) to only one gunaik– (wife), which is carried over smoothly from 2:8-15.
A widow should have been faithful to her andr– (husband) while she was married to him (1 Tim. 5:9).
An elder must be faithful to his gunaik– (wife) (Titus 1:6).
Younger women must love their own andr– (husbands) (Titus 2:5).
In 1 Peter 3:1-7, Peter uses the nouns andr– and gunaik– to advise husbands and wives on domestic tranquility.
Even the Holy City is symbolically depicted as a bride prepared for her andr– (husband) (Rev. 21:2).
To judge from the data points in no. 8, the context in 1 Tim. 2:12-15 is most likely domestic, in the interrelation between husband and wife. Yet, warning! Churches met in the house, so the public / domestic spheres could be merged.
9.. However, sometimes men (andr-) and women (gunaik-) are paired together, and they are not explicitly said to be married, per the context:
The feeding of the five thousand andr– (men), plus gunaik– (women) (Mark 6:44);
A great multitude of andr- (men) and gunaik- (women) were saved (Acts 5:14);
Saul (Paul) dragged off andr– (men) and gunaik- (women) (Acts 8:3; see 9:2; 22:4);
Many andr– (men) and gunaik- (women) were saved (Acts 17:12).
A man should not pray with his head covered, while a woman should, along with other issues (1 Cor. 11:2-16); It could be that throughout vv. 2-16 Paul has in mind a husband and wife and not generic mankind and womankind.
However, in all of these examples under no. 9, it is most likely, given the culture of marriage, that these men and women were husbands and wives. Example: Saul went house to house, dragging off men and women. Surely they were married (husbands and wives) living in those houses. However, the text does not say this clearly, so let’s assume they were not married.
10.. What about the (plural accusative) definite article in v. 8: τοὺς ἄνδρας (tous andras)? Doesn’t that mean “men” and not “husbands”?
One of the most surprising features of 1 Tim. 2, the entire chapter, is how few definite articles there are. In Greek, definite articles appear everywhere before nouns and proper nouns. However, not even “God” in v. 5 (second occurrence) has an article. Not even “human Christ Jesus” has one. Therefore it is not clear (to me at least) why there is an article in v. 8 before andras. Perkins says it could mean “married men,” but “this is not certain” (pp. 38-39). He also says, however, that in v. 9, “women” (“wives”) has no article before the noun, so that it should “probably not be narrowed down to wives” (p. 40). “Probably.” He is not completely sure. In v. 11, he says that the absence of the article before “woman” leaves the door open to translating it as “wives” (p. 42). The reference to Eve indicates it may signify “wife.” And so for vv. 11-15 it is not outlandish to translate the terms as “wife” or “wives” or “husband” or “husbands.”
For v. 9, most manuscripts have the definite article (tas) for women, matching the definite article (tous) for men in v. 8. Yet the Nestle-Aland, 28th edition, omits tas and puts the conjunction kai (and) in brackets. If the definite article belongs in v. 9, it provides a nice mirror to the article for men in v. 8. (See the NET online Bible, note 14, for a discussion.)
Bottom line for point no. 10: since 1 Tim. 2 has a surprising number of missing articles, we should not hang our interpretation on their presence or absence. Context is a surer guide.
11.. In v. 9, Paul now introduces the prohibition of conspicuous hairstyles, jewelry, and clothing. We will learn in the Q and A section, below, that Ephesus was a prosperous city; its huge temple to Artemis was a moneymaker. The rich controlled it. Yet the gospel was supposed to break down barriers between rich and poor (Jas. 2:2-6).
This image of a wealthy woman comes from the front of my book (now out of print). Though she was from Pompeii, she must represent countless others throughout the Roman empire:
Next, no doubt this was a wig that kept her slave-girls busy:
Here we see plaited hair (spiraled on top), gold, pearls, and expensive clothes:
Yes, Paul’s prohibition of ostentatious displays extends to all Christian women. Yes, there were Christian widows in Ephesus (1 Tim. 5:3-16), but most Christian women were married, so surely the focus was on the households of rich Christian wives (1 Tim. 6:17-19). They were not to give themselves over to conspicuous displays of wealth that separated them from everyone else.
12.. The Greek adjective “quiet” (hēsuchion) in v. 2 is related to the noun (hēsuchia) found in vv. 11-12. In vv. 1-2, the church is supposed to pray for Greco-Roman leaders, so Christians may lead a “quiet” life. This does not mean a closed mouth, 24 / 7 / 365, in the world (1 Cor. 5:10). It is impossible to believe that a Christian shopkeeper would never say one word when a customer walked into his shop–the public domain. To me, it sounds like Paul is telling Christians not to raise a ruckus or stir up social turmoil, as seen in the earlier riot in Ephesus (Acts 19:23-41). It speaks of a quiet and calm demeanor in the middle of a worldly society.
Likewise, women remaining quiet in the church means their demeanor, not their vocal cords. And Paul did not say, “I never permit a wife or woman” […]. Women can pray and prophesy in the assembly (1 Cor. 11:5). Recall that 1 Cor. 14:34-36 says that women should remain quiet in the assembles and not to speak in the sense of being disruptive, but to ask their husbands at home, so in those verses the context is both ecclesiastic and domestic, just as it is in vv. 11-12. This is not verbal silence every minute during the gathering in a house. How could women be expected not to say one word in a setting with which they were so familiar, the household, especially when they could pray and prophesy in the assembly?
Should Women Not Speak One Word in Church? A Close Look at 1 Cor. 14:34-36
Further, I cannot believe that Priscilla, married to Aquila, who taught the great Apollos in private (Acts 18:26), never said a word of instruction in public. In fact, since a church met in her house (1 Cor. 16:19), it is difficult to separate the public and private. But Prisca and Aquila evidently saw Apollos’s great skill and did not want to point out his deficiencies and complete his teaching, in front of everyone. Yet why would she attach an invisible “clothespin” to her mouth when the church met there? So “quiet” means “demeanor,” not a complete lockdown on spoken words. Also see Q and A no. 4, below, for further comments.
13.. The little connector de in v. 12 shows we are moving on to another topic. It is best to translate it as a contrast: “but.” However, the connector by itself is not enough. I depend also on the context (see point nos. 14-16, next).
14.. Now let’s look at more clues that the context is domestic. In v. 15, particularly, women are promised safety (or preservation) through childbirth. There is no way Paul would assume that a redeemed woman would have a child outside of marriage. Paul has in mind a husband and wife. The context of vv. 12-15 is domestic. Further, the Artemis mythology said that if women remain true to the goddess, they will be preserved in childbearing. Paul takes it over this pagan promise and says in Christ they will be preserved. (Gary Hoag, “Why Women Must Learn in Quietness and Submission: Xenophon of Ephesus and 1 Timothy 2.” Seedbed. Youtube.com, 24 Nov. 2015).
15.. Adam and Eve seem to be proper names, so they do not mean generic “mankind” and “womankind,” but Adam and Eve, a married couple.
16.. Adam and Eve were the world’s first couple, whom God joined together in marriage (Gen. 2:24). They were called to be fruitful and multiply. Throughout all of Scripture, only a husband and wife could legitimately procreate. And thus it is true here in v. 15. The context, once again, is domestic. This refutes the claim in the Artemis myth that the goddess was the source of all life. No, Eve was the mother of all living things (Gen. 3:20), according to Paul. (Gary Hoag, “Why Women Must Learn in Quietness and Submission: Xenophon of Ephesus and 1 Timothy 2.” Seedbed. Youtube.com, 24 Nov. 2015).
17.. In v. 14, I didn’t translate gunaik- as “wife,” but I could have, in context. Eve was Adam’s wife.
To conclude this long section, Paul’s restrictions on a woman teaching are really about wives who must not teach and dominate husbands. This is not about church leaders, though neither men nor women should dominate during their teaching, in any case. But the context is the household. Yet complications emerge when churches met in houses, so the public / domestic spheres could be merged.
So whether it was husband or wife or man and woman, Ephesian women, who dominated the temple of Artemis and who converted to Christ, must drop the superior attitude.
REPLIES TO POSSIBLE OBJECTIONS
Some readers may have concerns. Let me answer them if I can.
1.. How do you account for the fact that no translation follows yours?
In a footnote to vv. 11 and 12, the NIV translators say that “women” could be translated as “wives.” I like the NIV’s courage to begin the alternative translation in v. 11. So at first I began there too, as the NIV suggests, and wrote “wives.” But I pulled back a little and began my discussion of the domestic sphere in v. 12, because of the connector de. It seems, though, that v. 11 is transitional and could end v. 10 or begin v. 12. Yet de convinced me to put v. 11 with v. 10.
Further, in a footnote to v. 12, the NIV says that “over a man” could be translated “over her husband.” Here I agree. They confirmed that I am on the right track.
As for all the other translations not following suit, my point is to jump-start a conversation. I believe my translation of “husband” and “wife” is reasonable and plausible from vv. 12-15 (and maybe even beginning in v. 8).
2.. In 1 Cor. 11:2-16, Paul writes, so it seems, about generic mankind and generic womankind. How can you not see parallels between Paul’s practical advice for them and the women and men in 1 Tim. 2:12-15?
In 1 Cor. 11:2-16, I see no shift from generic mankind and womankind to a domestic sphere. In contrast, I do see a shift in 1 Tim. 2:12-15. But if there is a shift from the generic to the domestic in 1 Cor. 11:2-16, then this only supports my thesis here because of the same shift.
In fact, there may be nothing outlandish about translating all of 1 Cor. 11:2-16 as “husband” and “wife.” But that’s another issue.
3.. In v. 12, why did you choose “dominate”?
The verb authenteō is extremely rare, and in an earlier context it could mean “murder” (!). It did not mean this when Paul wrote, but it surely must have startled the original readers of Paul’s letter or Timothy. (Paul had another broader verb available to him, exousiazō, which he did not take.) Also, the first definition in the Greek lexicon abbreviated BDAG, which is considered authoritative by many Greek scholars, says authenteō means: “to assume a stance of independent authority, give orders to, dictate to.” It is not simply “have / exercise authority.” And in the little dictionary at the back of my Greek NT, the first definition of the verb is “domineer.” Something stronger is going on here.
I like what Perkins, after reviewing the literature, says of the surprising and rare verb. It functions transitively (it must have a direct object: “a husband,” though Perkins switches back and recommends “a man”). In any case, the verb “probably means ‘to compel, to influence’ or ‘to control or dominate.'” Further, “a domineering or controlling exercise of authority exhibited by some women in teaching may be the activity prohibited in this verse” (p. 44). This makes sense because of the rare and startling definition of the verb authenteō. Something out-of-the-ordinary is happening in the household (or public assembly or house church).
Therefore, it seems the recently converted wife may have bossed around her husband in an extra-strong way. Paul says no to this.
This implies that after wives cool their extra-authority or domination over their husbands, they could teach. The next Q and A’s build on this possibility.
4.. In referring to Eve’s deception, does Paul mean that wives generally are naturally easily deceived, so they must not teach at all?
The answer to this question is now found at this post:
Are Women Allowed to Teach Men? A Close Look at 1 Timothy 2:11-15
5.. Why did Paul refer to Adam and Eve?
The answer to this question has now been moved here:
Are Women Allowed to Teach Men? A Close Look at 1 Timothy 2:11-15
6.. Why did Paul say Adam was formed first?
Genesis was authoritative for Paul. Pagan myths about Artemis and other gods were not. Artemis, a pagan deity, was the source of life. He was reestablishing the Christian household in Ephesus, along biblical and Christian lines, as he did in Eph. 5:21-33 (also see 1 Cor. 11:3, 8-9, 11-12). By our modern standards, Paul was a traditionalist for the household, but for ministry, which was desperately needed to reach and teach the countless numbers of the lost people in his world, he broke free from Judaism and wanted the full participation of women and wives, as seen in Priscilla and Aquila and the actively ministering women in Rom. 16.
(And for the record, in Rom. 16:7, I believe the person’s name was Junia, a woman’s name, and she and Andronicus were prominent or noteworthy or outstanding among the apostles, as the Greek plainly says.)
Go here for the data:
Yes, Junia Really Was a Female Apostle: A Close Look at Roman 16:7
7.. Do you mean to tell us that a recently converted wife stood up, like a lecturer, and taught her husband (Acts 19:9b-10)? Isn’t that a farfetched image?
The churches met in houses. It is easy to believe that the public and domestic spheres merged. We can’t draw a broad, bright line between them. So yes, I believe some married women did teach in the household / church assembly. For all we know, they may have even taught in the lecture hall of Tyrannus, following Paul’s example (Acts 19:9b). And yes, any woman who had been involved (in varying degrees) with the temple of Artemis before her conversion may have taught in a dominating way, and Paul was telling her to drop the superior attitude. A humble Christian demeanor was now necessary. Surely Prisca led the way, though as a Jew and recently from Rome she had never been part of the old pagan religion of Artemis in Ephesus.
8.. Some interpreters say that the verb “to teach” and the verb “to dominate” are two different actions and should not be interpreted together, as in “teaching in a domineering way.” Paul allows neither one, separately. What do you say?
They say this because of the intervening words between the two verbs in Greek. One scholar says the two actions were “related” but “distinct.” But what does that mean? That’s called having your cake and eating it too. But I see the verbs working together because of the cultural context. Rich Ephesians converted to Christ (1 Tim. 6:17-19). No doubt the church met in their houses (see 1 Tim. 5:13; 2 Tim. 1:16; 4:19). I believe the two actions (teaching and dominating) went together because they were done in the household. And there is nothing grammatically to keep the two verbs apart. (No, we don’t need a formal hendiadys to keep the two verbs together.) In my exegesis, as noted, I don’t like to move grains of sand, one at a time, with tweezers. The verse joins them together because the culture and immediate textual context join them, and the syntax does not forbid it.
It does not matter, in the end, because Paul was responding to Ephesian religious culture which fostered domineering female leaders at the temple of Artemis, who no doubt had taught people, men and women, about this religion.
9.. But the plain reading of vv. 11-12–a woman should learn in all quietness and they have no permission to teach or exercise authority–is clear. There is no way the original cultural background can overcome this plain reading, right? We don’t need the background when the text is clear enough, do we? These verses are prescriptive.
Some interpreters call the passages where women’s ministry is practiced “descriptive” (e.g. Priscilla, Phoebe, Syntyche, Euodia, Nympha, Junia et al. See the references below). In contrast, the verses in the objection are often called “prescriptive passages.” They issue commands and instructions. How do we interpret the two kinds–descriptive and prescriptive?
One interpretation misses things: if we make the so-called prescriptive passages “smack down” the descriptive passages, then we make the women to be transgressors of the prescriptive passages in their active ministries. So something has gone wrong with the interpretation of the prescriptive passages. It is a sure thing that Paul would have laughed it out court because he observed those women in action. (Or if he could time-travel to right now, he may weep from discouragement at modern American, uptight interpretations.) Instead, the descriptive and prescriptive passages are mutually clarifying. Neither one trumps the other.
Women’s real-life ministries are found throughout the NT. Examples: named and unnamed women who followed Jesus to the very end of his life (Luke 8:2-3; 24:10); Priscilla taught the mighty Apollos (Acts 18); Euodia and Syntyche strove alongside Paul in the cause of the gospel (Phil. 4:2-3); Junia was a co-prisoner with Paul and was outstanding among the apostles (Rom. 16:7). Junia cannot have been passive and silent in ministry to land her in prison. Phoebe was a minister of the word (Rom. 16:1-2). Philipp’s daughters prophesied (Acts 21:9). A certain Mary worked hard for the Romans (Rom. 16:6). It is impossible to believe that she kept her mouth closed throughout her hard work.
Do modern Complementarians / restrictionists really want women not to say one word in church? Those verses in the objection were not written two weeks ago in America (or another nation), but two thousand years ago. Scripture is not flat or one dimensional. It was not written to us, but it was written for us.
This objection sets up a needless dichotomy between the two types of Scripture. Paul wrote that we are supposed to learn even from the (descriptive) stories in the Old Testament:
11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. (1 Cor. 10:11, NIV)
We need both types of Scripture to explain each other. I see both types as essential and part of the inerrant, authoritative word of God. Both types are mutually explanatory and clarifying. Don’t pit one against the other, or else you will turn Priscilla and other women (e.g. in Rom. 16) into transgressors of the “prescriptive” commands of Paul. Bad idea.
Those verses, of necessity, have an original cultural background that must be explored, particularly in the role of women in the church. The background clarifies the “plain” meaning of the text, even more. It is very risky to ignore the cultural background because we can reach needlessly severe restrictions.
Context, context, context!
First Timothy 2 begins broadly with the entire world and redemption (vv. 2b-7), so Paul used the generic term anthrōpos, which means “person” or “human being.” In the plural it can be translated as “people.” Christ being a ransom can cover all of humankind.
In v. 8 Paul now returns to his opening exhortation to the church begun in vv. 1-2a. Men should pray. From v. 8, moreover, all the way to the end, v. 15, Paul uses the narrower term anēr (and its building stem andr-), which generally means “man,” gender specific. In many contexts it can mean “husband” (see no. 8 under Explanation, above). The noun gunē (woman or wife) (and its building stem gunaik-) also appears for the first time in v. 9.
It could be the case that Paul has in mind the domestic sphere even in v. 8. However, I was not so bold as to narrow the focus to the domestic sphere in that verse in my translation, though I would have liked to have done this. I did not want to push the thesis too far, too hard, and too fast. The NIV offers the possibility of the domestic domain, beginning in v. 11-12, where the words “women” and “men” could be translated as “wives” and “husbands.” I like their opinion. It’s bold. But I opted to wait for v. 12, because of the connector de. I say it indicates a change of focus. And the theme of Adam and Eve tells me that the context has shifted over to the domestic sphere, between married couples.
So what does this mean for the church today?
This study opens the door to women teachers in the church, and we cannot use 1 Tim. 2:11-15 to prevent them. Paul was merely telling wives who had learned to dominate in the temple of Artemis or who had come under the influence of the temple even if they were not priestesses or who had acquired too much authority through magic, not to dominate their husbands at home during ministry. No doubt this domination had involved some of these cultic female leaders instructing men and women about the public things of the Artemis cult (though not the secret things) before their conversion. After their conversion, there must have been some carry over from their former dominance or involvement in paganism, whether tied to Artemis or to magic spells, to the Christian household. They should no longer teach their household or the church that met there, particularly their husbands, in a domineering way. They had to drop their superior attitude. They should adopt a quiet demeanor, the way of humility, as all disciples should, realizing their authority came from the Lordship of Christ.
I cannot see Paul’s prohibition against domineering teaching as applying to all women for all times, if and only if women teachers receive discipleship and learn where their authority comes from. (If any woman of any century does not learn humility, then of course the prohibition is imposed on them.) Both men and women teachers must learn this lesson. (Recall that Paul said a male elder must not be “overbearing.”) I can’t believe that Priscilla taught Apollos in a domineering, overbearing manner; nor can I believe that she did not say one word in a house church or in instructing him or anyone else, male or female. So “quietness” in vv. 2 and 11-12 does not mean that women did not say one word in the household / church. It meant a quiet demeanor. For the women of Ephesus, it was the way of trust and humility before God, which is different from their old way of exercising dominance in their former religion or occultic practices.
Nor do I believe that Priscilla had no sense of authority when she taught Apollos. So it is best to translate the rare verb authenteō as “dominate” and not the broader “have / exercise authority.” But come to think of it, neither should the husband “exercise authority” over his wife, when instead he is called to love her as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25).
I write to learn. So what did I learn?
This interpretation is not meant to be dogmatic. If you insist on keeping the nouns “men” and “women” throughout vv. 8-15 and not accept “husbands” and “wives” in vv. 12-15, then you may be right. But my translation and commentary are offered to the wider Christian public only as a reasonable possibility, even probability, because in my country (USA) countless millions of Christians shut the door on women teachers in the church. However, what if Paul wanted women to teach in public, to an audience of men or women, as Prisca did for Apollos–probably in her house where a church met, so the private / public merged? And in their teaching, neither a man (or husband) nor a woman (or a wife) should dominate anyone.
Here is what I further learned at the end of my study:
Paul’s restrictions on womankind are not universal, binding on all women for all times.
It really does not matter whether the context is husbands and wives or men and women. Whether the sphere is domestic (wife and husband) or ecclesiastic (women and men), the bottom line from 1 Timothy 2 is this: both the public, ecclesiastic door and the domestic door are open to women teachers of men, women, younger women and children, if they drop the domineering demeanor. No one can slam the door shut on them any longer and keep them completely silent, beyond debate, by using this chapter against female teachers of a wide audience.
Women, Men, and Five Ministry Gifts in Ephesians 4:11
What 1 Corinthians 14 Really Teaches
Should Women Not Speak One Word in Church? A Close Look at 1 Cor. 14:34-36
Are Women Allowed to Teach Men? A Close Look at 1 Timothy 2:11-15
Women in Ministry: Replies to Objections
Yes, Junia Really Was a Female Apostle: A Close Look at Roman 16:7
Are Older Women Restricted to Teaching (‘Only’?) Young Women? A Close Look at Titus 2:3-5
Women Really Did Work as–and Were–Overseers, Elders, Pastors: A Close Look at 1 Timothy 5:9-10