1 Timothy 2:12 and Women Teaching?
The question is does 1 Timothy 2:12 prohibit a women from teaching or preaching if men are present?
1 Timothy 2:12 states, “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”
Allow me to bullet point some considerations when seeking the proper interpretation and application of this verse for today’s local church ministry…
• The book of Timothy is a letter written to Timothy addressing some specific challenges with the church at Ephesus. It is personal letter that falls within the confines of Spirit spoken, but not written with the intent of being applicable to the universal church, except as the context and principles therein can be applied.
• Paul specifically says, “I do not permit.” It is worth noting that Paul did not say “The Lord does not permit” although I recognize the argument that Paul was speaking in the authority of his apostleship under the direction of the Holy Spirit. So while I stop short of saying Paul is merely expressing an opinion, his use of “I” at least has to cause a Bible student to ask why he took personal possession of the statement. I think the answer is in the deeper reference than our understanding of modern day preaching. Paul’s word for “teach” in the verse and its context seems to imply the Rabbi to disciple model of teaching that is more intense in subordination than a Sunday morning walk-in, sit down, then go home preacher to parishioner model.
• Paul uses a unique word that the KJV translates “usurp authority” and in the the Latin Vulgate is translated “domineer” because it carries the meaning of aggression with it. It is the only time in Scripture that the word is used. In 14 other places in his writings, Paul used a different word for referring to authority in the church. 1 Timothy 2:12 then is a different case than just leadership that we would know in today’s local congregational structures. The ESV translates it to “exercise authority” over a man, and that is not a bad translation that acknowledges an element of aggression, over-power, or demanding.
• The gift of teaching as referred to in Romans 12:7 and 1 Corinthians 12:28 give no qualifying application for males only. As far as that goes, neither does the gift of shepherd-teacher in Ephesians 4:11 qualify it by gender.
• 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is a parallel passage with the similar situation of speaking to a specific issue at a congregation. You can review an article I wrote on 1 Corinthians 14 when our church was going through our Bible teaching series on Corinthians. In the article I dealt a little more deeply with the general topic of the women’s role in ministry at https://www.crosshopechapel.org/1-corinthians-14/.
The bottom line for me, is that 1 Timothy 2:12 is not a prohibition against women teaching men, but Paul’s address to help Timothy curb the spread of false teaching. I think the larger context would support a male headship for a congregation, but not a denial of a gifted pastor-teacher who happens to be a women.