When I was in college, I came home for summer vacation ready to serve my home church. I immediately volunteered to help in youth group. When the man who was acting as youth pastor asked if anyone wanted to explain a passage of Scripture, of course, I jumped right in. I was excited to make God come alive through his Word. Afterword, I asked if I could teach a lesson or two to the group.
“I don’t think that is a good idea. I don’t mind you talking during my lesson. But, I don’t think its right for you to teach,” the youth lead told me.
“Huh? Why?” I asked.
“Because the Bible says that women should be quiet and not teach men.”
Argument won. Cased closed.
For decades, I believed this man’s reasoning. I championed women using their gifts in the church, but always taught we were bounded by God with the “ceiling” of 1 Timothy 2:11-15. Verse 12 became foundational to all other verses that encouraged Christians to use their gifts in the church. Women fell under different parameters than men. God would never call a women to do something that contradicted 1 Timothy 2:12. It was the litmus for what women were allowed to do.
11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. 1 Timothy 2:11-15
I was wrong.
I thought I was taking the verse at face value, but the simplistic approach was not correct. I had been taking the verse out of its context. Since then, I have earned a MDiv degree in Theological Studies, and I have taken 1 Timothy apart and re-built my own understanding of what was happening in the church that necessitated Paul to write that the women should not “have authority” over the men. You can read my series of posts on 1 Timothy 2, HERE.
Here are 3 reasons why I believe 1 Timothy 2:11-15 does not limit women today.
1 Timothy 2:11-15 is aberrant.
Aberrant describes something that deviates from the usual. It is exceptional, not normal. First, the Greek word translated as “assume authority over” is not used anywhere else in the Bible. Its uniqueness makes an absolute definition puzzling. Also, the New Testament only presents salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. But in verse 15, Paul says “she will be saved through childbearing.” Again, because this idea is not mentioned elsewhere, we are left with a puzzle as to meaning. This aberrance makes me reticent to base any major belief on my understanding of it. It should not be a foundational passage. What is not aberrant is Paul’s continued affirmation of women teaching, leading and utilizing their gifts to build up the body of Christ throughout his writings.
1 Timothy 2:11-15 must be understood in the context of the entire letter.
It is easy to read verse 12 as evidence that women should be limited in the church. That is what it says. It is a clear reading. The problem is that the “clear” understanding is the wrong one because it takes things out of context.
Once I understood the context of this passage in light of the whole letter to Timothy, it became evident that Paul was combating the false teaching that was deceiving the Ephesian church. These verses (and others throughout the letter) reveal that the deception was being taught by women. This is the context behind his words in 1 Timothy 2. He was not limiting all women in all churches. He was limiting the women who were teaching false doctrine in Ephesus.
1 Timothy 2 also instructs the men.
If we are to understand 1 Timothy 2 to limit the role of women in the church today, then we should be consistent with this logic, right? Back up to verse 8.
I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. 1 Timothy 2:8
When is the last time you heard a good sermon on the necessity of the proper posture of men in prayer? Ever heard of a church requiring men to pray with hands outstretched? Or even, that an angry argumentative man is out of God’s will? Now compare that number to the number of times you’ve heard 1 Timothy 2:12 preached about women? There is an inconsistency which proves that we need a more nuanced hermeneutic to understand what Paul’s instruction means for us today.
I pray these 3 reasons why we should not interpret 1 Timothy 2:11-15 to limit the role of women in church will start you on a journey to dig into God’s Word to become more savvy, able to make good judgements about how to apply Scripture to your life.
Have you had an experience with this passage you could share with me? Feel free to share this post to get people talking!
When is the last time you heard a good sermon on the necessity of the proper posture of men in prayer? Ever heard of a church requiring men to pray with hands outstretched? Now compare that number to the number of times you’ve heard 1 Timothy 2:12 preached about women? There is an inconsistency which proves that we need a more nuanced hermeneutic to understand what Paul’s instruction means for us today.Tweet