Alright, this is going to be a very touchy post that is definitely going to rub a lot of people the wrong way. But I want to make it very clear that I in no way am belittling women in the church, and want to make it very clear that this is not a debate over chauvinism or discrimination, but merely over what Scripture says. I am a strong proponent of sola scriptura and believe that God’s word is the ultimate authority. Sure, we often do not like the results that stem from this, but as humans that is expected, but as Christians we are to trust, obey, and follow His word. That being said, let’s take a look at the main passage in question.
1 Timothy 2:11-12: 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. (ESV)
There is possibly no topic more hotly debated within the church than that of women in ministry, more specifically whether or not women can hold a pastoral position within the church. I did as much research as I could to see what the most authoritative people had to say on this topic, and below I figured it most convenient and efficient to quote what these men have to say. (And please don’t be put off by the fact that these authorities all happen to be men. I am not merely trying to show “one side of the argument”, it just so happens that the men most qualified to tackle the subjects are men.)
The very first place I went to has quickly become my favorite and most trusted resource for insight to biblical interpretation and learning; the ESV Study Bible. The author of the study notes for 1 and 2 Timothy is Dr. Ray Van Neste, who obtained his Ph.D at the University of Aberdeen and is an Associates Director of Christian Studies and the Director at the B.C Ryan Center for Biblical Studies at Union University. Here are his notes on the above passage:
1 Tim. 2:11 Women are not to teach men in the church but are to submit and defer to male leadership (see notes on vv. 12, 13, 14).
1 Tim. 2:12 I do not permit. Paul self-consciously writes with the authority of an apostle (e.g., 1 Thess. 4:1; 2 Thess. 3:6), rather than simply offering an opinion. This statement is given in the context of Paul's apostolic instructions to the church for the ordering of church practice when the church is assembled together. In that context, two things are prohibited: (1) Women are not permitted to publicly teach Scripture and/or Christian doctrine to men in church (the context implies these topics), and (2) women are not permitted to exercise authority over men in church. (The reference for both “teaching” and “exercise authority” here is within the context of the assembled church.) Women teaching other women, and women teaching children, are not in view here, and both are encouraged elsewhere (on women teaching women, cf. Titus 2:4; on women teaching children, cf. 2 Tim. 1:5). Nor does this passage have in view the role of women in leadership situations outside the church (e.g., business or government). The presence of the word or (Gk. oude) between “to teach” and “to exercise authority” indicates that two different activities are in view, not a single activity of “authoritative teaching.” “Exercise authority” represents Greek authenteō, found only here in the NT. Over 80 examples of this word exist outside the NT, however, clearly establishing that the meaning is “exercise authority” (not “usurp authority” or “abuse authority,” etc., as sometimes has been argued). Since the role of pastor/elder/overseer is rooted in the task of teaching and exercising authority over the church, this verse would also exclude women from serving in this office (cf. 1 Tim. 3:2). Thus when Paul calls for the women to be quiet, he means “quiet” with respect to the teaching responsibility that is limited in the assembled church. Paul elsewhere indicates that women do speak in other ways in the church assembly (see 1 Cor. 11:5).
It has often been argued that Paul’s meaning in these verses is merely a reference to a specific event to a specific people at a specific point in time, and thus not applicable to us today, but if we venture further in the text we see that Paul justifies his refusal of permission with a timeless and eternal justification, making his “decree” just as timeless and eternal:
1 Timothy 2:13-14: 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.
So what does this mean to us, exactly? Here is what Dr. Neste had to say:
1 Tim. 2:13 For introduces the biblical basis for the prohibition of v. 12. Paul indicates that the prohibition is based on two grounds, the first being the order of creation (Adam was formed first), and the second being the deception of Eve (v. 14). “Formed” (Gk. plassō) is the same term that the Septuagint uses in Gen. 2:7, 8, which evidently refers to creation (cf. 1 Cor. 11:8–9). Paul's argument indicates that gender roles in the church are not simply the result of the fall but are rooted in creation and therefore apply to all cultures at all times. The meaning of this passage, however, is widely contested today. Some interpreters argue that the prohibition of 1 Tim. 2:12 does not apply today because: (1) the reason for Paul's command was that women were teaching false doctrine in Ephesus; or (2) Paul said this because women in that culture were not educated enough to teach; or (3) this was a temporary command for that culture only. But Paul's appeal to the creation of Adam and Eve argues against those explanations. In addition, the only false teachers named in connection with Ephesus are men (1:19–20; 2 Tim. 2:17–18; cf. Acts 20:30), and no historical evidence exists of women teaching false doctrine in first-century Ephesus. Moreover, ancient inscriptions and literature speak of a number of well-educated women in that area of Asia Minor at that time (cf. also Luke 8:1–3; 10:38–41; John 11:21–27; Acts 18:2–3, 11, 18–19, 26; 2 Tim. 4:19). Finally, some have claimed that this passage only prohibits a “wife” from teaching or exercising authority over her “husband,” since the Greek words gynē and anēr (translated “woman” and “man” in 1 Tim. 2:12) can also mean “wife” and “husband” in certain contexts. Given the immediate context of vv. 8–9, however, the most likely meaning of the Greek words gynē and anēr here in vv. 11–14 would seem to be “woman” and “man” (rather than “wife” and “husband”).
1 Tim. 2:14 Adam was not deceived, but the woman was. Paul's second reason (cf. v. 13). Though Eve sinned first as a result of being deceived, Adam's sin was conscious and willful, with devastating consequences for the whole human race (see Rom. 5:12).
While the comment on v. 14 is pretty simple, the notes on v. 13 are very thorough and important as they refute many arguments at once:
• Women teaching false doctrine in Ephesus
• Women of the culture not educated enough to teach
• Temporary command only for that culture
• Only refers to a wife and husband situation, as the Greek words gynē and anēr can sometimes mean that
Dr. Neste makes it abundantly clear that these verses do apply today and it holds that women are not to hold pastoral/authoritative positions over men in the church.
The next reference I found myself reading was John MacArthur’s Bible Commentary. John obtained his Master’s of Divinity from Biola University’s Talbot Theological Seminary, graduating with honors, and has served as pastor/teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California since 1969. Clearly a well qualified man, having written literally hundreds of Bible based works, and complete list and timeline of which can be found at http://www.gty.org/Meet/JohnMacArthur. Here I will only focus on verse 12 and 13, since this is the basic area that discusses the topic at hand.
1 Timothy 2:12- I do not permit. The Greek word for permit is used in the NT to refer to allowing someone to do what he desires. Paul may have been addressing a real situation in which several women in Ephesus desired to be public preachers. to teach. Paul used a verbal form of this Greek that indicates a condition or process that is better translated: “to be a teacher.” This was an important, official function in the church (see Acts 13:1; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11). Thus, Paul if forbidding women from fulfilling the office and role of pastor or teacher. He is not prohibiting them from teaching in other appropriate conditions and circumstances (cf. Acts 18:26; Titus 2:3, 4). to have authority over. Paul forbids women from exercising any type of authority over men in the church assembly, since the elders are those who rule (5:17). They are all to be men (as is clear from the requirements in 3:2, 5). [Blogger’s Note: I can’t say I agree with his choice of words, referring to the elders as those who “rule”, but rest assured, it is not meant to sound as it does.]
1 Timothy 2:13-14- A women’s subordinate role did not result after the Fall as a cultural, chauvinistic corruption of God’s perfect design; rather, God established her role as a part of His creation (v. 13). God made woman after man to be his suitable helper (see note on Genesis 2:18; 1 Cor. 11:8-9). The Fall actually corroborates God’s divine plan of creation (see notes on Genesis 3:1-7). By nature Eve was not suited to assume the position of ultimate responsibility. By leaving Adam’s protection and [assuming] his headship, she was vulnerable and fell, thus confirming how important it was for her to stay under that protection and leadership of her husband. Adam then violated his leadership role, followed Eve in her sin, and plunged the human race into sinfulness- all connected with violating God’s planned roles for the sexes. Ultimately, the responsibility for the Fall rests with Adam, since he chose to disobey God apart from being deceived (Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:21-22).
Since his notes on verses 13 and 14 are a bit tough to follow, I want to try and make it clearer here. Basically what he is saying is that man and woman are each pre-programmed to fulfill certain leadership roles, and when we as humans try to go against or even reverse the planned roles, bad things happen, and while the consequences were obviously more immediate and noticeable here, this doesn’t mean the same will be for every situation where the church decides to elect a female pastor.
The third and final reference source I am going to use in this blog is a ministry called GotQuestions.org. GotQuestions has become well known for their authoritative biblical interpretation and their easy to understand articles on tough subjects. Since it is already very easy to read, I am merely going to reprint the article here, or if you want, you can read it yourself at their site at http://www.gotquestions.org/women-pastors.html.
Question: "Women pastors / preachers? What does the Bible say about women in ministry?"
Answer: There is perhaps no more hotly debated issue in the church today than the issue of women serving as pastors/preachers. As a result, it is very important to not see this issue as men versus women. There are women who believe women should not serve as pastors and that the Bible places restrictions on the ministry of women, and there are men who believe women can serve as preachers and that there are no restrictions on women in ministry. This is not an issue of chauvinism or discrimination. It is an issue of biblical interpretation.
The Word of God proclaims, “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent” (1 Timothy 2:11-12). In the church, God assigns different roles to men and women. This is a result of the way mankind was created and the way in which sin entered the world (2 Timothy 2:13-14). God, through the apostle Paul, restricts women from serving in roles of teaching and/or having spiritual authority over men. This precludes women from serving as pastors, which definitely includes preaching to, teaching, and having spiritual authority over men.
There are many “objections” to this view of women in ministry. A common one is that Paul restricts women from teaching because in the first century, women were typically uneducated. However, 1 Timothy 2:11-14 nowhere mentions educational status. If education were a qualification for ministry, the majority of Jesus' disciples would not have been qualified. A second common objection is that Paul only restricted the women of Ephesus from teaching (1 Timothy was written to Timothy, who was the pastor of the church in Ephesus). The city of Ephesus was known for its temple to Artemis, a false Greek/Roman goddess. Women were the authority in the worship of Artemis. However, the book of 1 Timothy nowhere mentions Artemis, nor does Paul mention Artemis worship as a reason for the restrictions in 1 Timothy 2:11-12.
A third common objection is that Paul is only referring to husbands and wives, not men and women in general. The Greek words in the passage could refer to husbands and wives; however, the basic meaning of the words refers to men and women. Further, the same Greek words are used in verses 8-10. Are only husbands to lift up holy hands in prayer without anger and disputing (verse 8)? Are only wives to dress modestly, have good deeds, and worship God (verses 9-10)? Of course not. Verses 8-10 clearly refer to all men and women, not only husbands and wives. There is nothing in the context that would indicate a switch to husbands and wives in verses 11-14.
Yet another frequent objection to this interpretation of women in ministry is in relation to women who held positions of leadership in the Bible, specifically Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah in the Old Testament. This objection fails to note some significant factors. First, Deborah was the only female judge among 13 male judges. Huldah was the only female prophet among dozens of male prophets mentioned in the Bible. Miriam's only connection to leadership was being the sister of Moses and Aaron. The two most prominent women in the times of the Kings were Athaliah and Jezebel—hardly examples of godly female leadership. Most significantly, though, the authority of women in the Old Testament is not relevant to the issue. The book of 1 Timothy and the other Pastoral Epistles present a new paradigm for the church—the body of Christ—and that paradigm involves the authority structure for the church, not for the nation of Israel or any other Old Testament entity.
Similar arguments are made using Priscilla and Phoebe in the New Testament. In Acts 18, Priscilla and Aquila are presented as faithful ministers for Christ. Priscilla's name is mentioned first, perhaps indicating that she was more “prominent” in ministry than her husband. However, Priscilla is nowhere described as participating in a ministry activity that is in contradiction to 1 Timothy 2:11-14. Priscilla and Aquila brought Apollos into their home and they both discipled him, explaining the Word of God to him more accurately (Acts 18:26).
In Romans 16:1, even if Phoebe is considered a “deaconess” instead of a “servant,” that does not indicate that Phoebe was a teacher in the church. “Able to teach” is given as a qualification for elders, but not deacons (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:6-9). Elders/bishops/deacons are described as the “husband of one wife,” “a man whose children believe,” and “men worthy of respect.” Clearly the indication is that these qualifications refer to men. In addition, in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:6-9, masculine pronouns are used exclusively to refer to elders/bishops/deacons.
The structure of 1 Timothy 2:11-14 makes the “reason” perfectly clear. Verse 13 begins with “for” and gives the “cause” of Paul’s statement in verses 11-12. Why should women not teach or have authority over men? Because “Adam was created first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived.” God created Adam first and then created Eve to be a “helper” for Adam. This order of creation has universal application in the family (Ephesians 5:22-33) and the church. The fact that Eve was deceived is also given as a reason for women not serving as pastors or having spiritual authority over men. This leads some to believe that women should not teach because they are more easily deceived. That concept is debatable, but if women are more easily deceived, why should they be allowed to teach children (who are easily deceived) and other women (who are supposedly more easily deceived)? That is not what the text says. Women are not to teach men or have spiritual authority over men because Eve was deceived. As a result, God has given men the primary teaching authority in the church.
Many women excel in gifts of hospitality, mercy, teaching, and helps. Much of the ministry of the local church depends on women. Women in the church are not restricted from public praying or prophesying (1 Corinthians 11:5), only from having spiritual teaching authority over men. The Bible nowhere restricts women from exercising the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12). Women, just as much as men, are called to minister to others, to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and to proclaim the gospel to the lost (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; 1 Peter 3:15).
God has ordained that only men are to serve in positions of spiritual teaching authority in the church. This is not because men are necessarily better teachers, or because women are inferior or less intelligent (which is not the case). It is simply the way God designed the church to function. Men are to set the example in spiritual leadership—in their lives and through their words. Women are to take a less authoritative role. Women are encouraged to teach other women (Titus 2:3-5). The Bible also does not restrict women from teaching children. The only activity women are restricted from is teaching men or having spiritual authority over them. This logically would preclude women from serving as pastors/preachers. This does not make women less important, by any means, but rather gives them a ministry focus more in agreement with God’s plan and His gifting of them.
So here it has been shown that every objection to this stance that I know of can and has been refuted, that women are not to take an authoritative role over women, and that women do have a special place in ministry (just not as pastors or other positions over men). I know that there are many who object, but if this is the case, then please present an argument that shows that I, along with these very smart, very authoritative resources, are wrong. Don’t simply complain about how my position is outdated or how chauvinistic or politically incorrect I am being. Nothing is more annoying than such useless and un-intelligent responses (no offense is meant, but that’s really all that those are). If you know of an objection to this stance that was not dealt with here, please let me know, so I can find what needs to found.
I also want it to be mentioned that I am good friends with many people who hold to the opposing position and even a woman who, under her denomination, holds the title of pastor. I still love them all with the love of Christ, just simply don’t condone nor agree with their stance. Thank you for reading, and God bless.