GCTS LogoWalter C. Kaiser Jr.



Kerith Farm


The Bible is  inspired and inerrant. Hermeneutics rooted in grammatical-historical method.  Promise Theology.  Expository preaching-Exegetical Theology with the meaning and message of the Biblical text. "Keep your finger on the TEXT!"

Correcting Caricatures:

The Biblical Teaching on Women


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5.      1 Timothy 2:8-15. Women are encouraged to lead in public prayers and to teach, but only after they have been taught.

It is none other than our Lord who encourages women to led in public prayers, presumably at the time of the assembling of the worshipping community in 1 Timothy 2:9.  Paul, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, had just told the men that “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer” (v.8), but he warned men to beware of leading outwardly in prayer while inwardly harboring hostility over some dispute or hidden anger.  This is a problem men still need to handle.

      From there Paul went on to draw a strong comparison.  He began verse 9 with the Greek word hōsautōs, meaning “in like manner,” or “similarly.”  The NIV and other versions tend to drop out or to soften this linking word (NIV, “I also want…”-just “also”??). The apostle wants the women to do something similar to what he had just instructed the men to do, viz., to pray in public.  I say “in public”, because it is prayer with a “lifting up of holy hands” or outstretched as is common when publicly blessing God’s people.  Thus, the Greek word for “in like manner” repeats the whole previous sentence, except the warning is different: men have trouble in overly internalizing anger and disputes while trying to pray effectively in public, whereas women have trouble sometimes not realizing God meant them to be beautiful and attractive to men, but not in this situation! Women must dress modestly while offering prayers in public.  There is no concern here for what women may look like when they offer their own private prayers in their closet at home surely.  Accordingly, the apostle wants women to participate with men in the public service of the Church by offering prayers.  There can be no debate over this point unless someone knows how we can get rid of hōsautōs in this text.

     A.J. Gordon, one of the founders of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, quipped (after noting our passage here and 1 Cor. 11:15 [“Every woman who prays or prophesies]): “It is quite incredible, on the contrary, that the apostle should give himself the trouble to prune a custom, which he desired to uproot, or that he should spend his breath condemning a forbidden method of doing a forbidden thing.”[ix] Exactly so! God wanted women to participate in public services both in prayer and, as we will see, by prophesying; however, they were to be careful of their dress so as not to draw attention to themselves.

     Now, the central point of this passage, one indeed that would have been revolutionary for Paul’s day, came in 1 Timothy 2:11-“Let a woman…..learn!” This was a real bombshell for that day! Why would anyone ask women to do something like that? The Hebrews did not let their women learn publically, nor did the Greeks, Romans, or the pagans.  Why should the Christians start such a strange custom since it had never been heard of or done by anyone before this?? But Paul is insistent” it is the only imperative in the passage.  It is this verb, manthanō, “let [the women] learn”, which would have drawn everyone’s attention and potential ire when this was first written.  Unfortunately, we do not have a third person imperative form in English, so our “let [them] learn” sounds as if it is mere permission, but do not mistake the apostle’s intention here.  He now orders all Christians to teach women the gospel in all its magnificence.

    Yes, some respond, but, however she learns, she must do so “in silence,” and “in full submission” [apparently, argue some, to her husband!]. On the contrary, the “subjection” is to her God or alternatively to her teacher, as encouraged in 1 Corinthians 16:16 or Hebrews 13:17.  Likewise, it is not total “silence” that is required of the female learner any more than the same “silence” is required of men when they work or eat their lunches (2 Thess. 3:12).  In both cases the Greek word hēsuchia is better rendered as “quietness” or, even better, “a quiet spirit”. Thus , it is not an absolute silence that is required her of women any more than of men.  But even with this word about the demeanor and attitudes of the female learner noted here, it would not commend itself to Jewish teaching of that time, for the Jewish attitude was: “Let the law be burned rather than committed to a woman” (y.Sotah 3:4, 19a); “He who teaches his daughter the law is as though he taught her sin” (M. Sotah 3:4). So taught the Talmud.

    Fine, may agree some objectors, but why is it Paul goes on to say in 1 Timothy 2:12 that he does “not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man….”?  Had Paul suddenly changed his mind after demanding that women pray in public, prophesy in the body of believers, and be taught?

      But, again, we say, if this is an absolute command allowing no exceptions, then why does Paul instruct women to teach other women in Titus 2:4?  Should he not also have silenced Priscilla, whose name usually precedes Aquila’s in the Greek order of the names in the Book of Acts (e.g., Acts 18:26, despite how some of the versions put it the other way around), when Aquila clearly taught as well?  And Timothy, whose mother and grandmother (2 Tim. 1:5).  Some insist they taught him before he was seven years old, as they oddly teach that women should not teach boys once they passed their seventh birthday.  I have no idea why: they just simply assert it is so!
     Yes, Paul is saying in this passage that women must not teach or exercise authority over a man, but the reasons he gives are found in the context that follows: verses 13 and 14.  Paul expresses his strong preference  and his own desires (though he too has the mind of the Lord even in this), for he uses the Greek word epitrepō, “I do [not] permit.”  This form is exactly the same form as Paul used in 1 Corinthians 7:7, “I wish that all of you were as I am [=unmarried].”  But he does not use the imperative form of the verb now as he did when demanding that women be taught.  So why does he not wish or permit women “to teach [note there should be no comma here, for the Greek text is without our systems of punctuation] or to control a man?”

     The reasons are these:   Adam was “shaped/formed/ molded/ fashioned” first. What will throw everything off track here is to view this first reason as an argument from “the orders of creation,” I.e., Adam was created first and then came Eve.  If this argument were held consistently, then the animals might be demanding their rights since they got here even before Adam was created! But, Paul did not use the Greek word kitzō, “to create”, but plassō, which is also used, as I believe it is used here, of “the orders of education”, not orders of creation.  It is the same root from which we today get our word for “plastic”.  It refers in Greek to all sorts of formative thinking, teaching, and action in society, life, and both formal and informal teaching.  Therefore, Paul’s restriction, or wish-however we desire to view it here- is on women only so long as they remain untaught.  Presumably (for, how else can we avoid formulating an unnecessary contradiction between Paul’s teaching and his practices as taught and permitted elsewhere in Scripture?), as soon as the women were taught, they would be allowed to teach and exercise leadership much as some did in the examples already noted form the Old Testament.

   Adam had a head start on Eve in education, for God walked and talked with him in the Garden of Eden until he got lonely.  That is how Satan, the snake, was able to trick her.  It appeared as if she had planned to hold her peace, but, when “the Serpent” (hannāhāŝ) subtly suggested that God had set up impossibly narrow rules and then even went on deliberately to distort what God had said, Eve almost involuntarily sprang to defend God as well as the couples’ own standing and thus was beguiled and drawn into the vortex of the Evil One’s trickery and deception.  Why Adam did not intervene, taught as he was, I cannot say!  He just let Eve rattle on, which was foolish! So that is what Paul teaches here: Adam himself was not “deceived,” but Eve was “thoroughly deceived” (the phrasing uses the same verb, but adds an intensifying preposition attached to the same verb for Eve).  The only way you can deceive or trick someone is to do so when they have not been taught.  It is this Greek verb, expataō, “to thoroughly deceive,” that shifts the word plassō from the secondary meaning “to form”, as in creation, to the primary meaning usually associated with this verb: “to shape [socially or educationally].”  Thus, according to Paul, the two reasons women should not teach are: (1) they have not as yet had a chance to be taught, and (2) they can all too easily be tricked and deceived when they have not yet been taught.  Unfortunately, Adam to sinned, but did so being fully cognizant of what was going on: he just ate! Eve, on the other hand, seemed to be really misled and attacked as if in an ambush, because she had not as yet had all the advantages of walking and talking with God in the garden of Eden or of learning as had Adam.

     And then there is the extremely difficult verse of 1 Timothy 2:15, for which some thirty major interpretations exist.  But the context is the determiner, so the flow of the argument is this: Do not attempt to put down women just because Eve was really deceived.  Remember, God chose woman through whom the promised child came and not a man! SO, men, be careful and kind in your assessments and in your comments about these women that God has given to end our loneliness.

    With this understanding of 1 Timothy 2:8-15, we can see now how Paul could also allow women to “pray and prophesy” in 1 Corinthians 11:5 and even be more emphatic in 1 Corinthians 14:31 where “all may prophesy” so that “all may learn” and “all may be encouraged.”  The same “all” who were learning and being encouraged made up the identity of those who may prophesy-“all”.  If some wish to cavil over the word “prophesy,” it can be noted in 1 Corinthians 14:3 that “everyone who prophesies speaks to mortals for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.”  That sounds like a definition of preaching, does it not?Next page --page 4--button