REBUTTAL TO INTERPRETATIONS RESTRICTING WOMEN FROM PREACHING
1 Timothy 2:12
“And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.”
By Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr.

There is no single verse in the Bible that has generated more controversy than 1Timothy 2:12. Dr. Maurice Pugh is correct in his assessment as to why there is so much controversy surrounding this verse.

“The crux of the controversy: some would say take it as it is written, others would say what is going on behind what is written; then others compare it with the other verses that have been written.”

Paul taught that women in the Kingdom were to model the pattern of leadership God set forth in creation whereby leadership is exhibited by male and female God-given dominion. The male is given leadership responsibilities in the partnership and the woman is the follower. The temple of Artemis at Ephesus had a woman at the center and men were followers. This was a reversal of the creation model. Paul writes what he does in 1 Timothy 2:12 as a corrective to say women should not swap roles with the man. Women can preach on the Lord’s Day of worship if they follow leadership as did Huldah, Phoebe and the New Testament prophetess and not rebel against leadership as did Eve and Jezebel.

  1. Inconsistent Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-12: The same stringent interpretation we have for v. 12 is not used for vv. 9-10, which states: “in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.” If the instructions in vv. 9-10 are relative to the church in Ephesus and their particular situation, then why do we try to take v. 12 to its logical extent, without focus on why Paul would give such instructions?  We would not dare instruct a woman that she should not wear braids, pearls or costly clothing based on vs. 9; thus, we should not take a different hermeneutical approach with vs. 12. To do so presents an impermissibly inconsistent interpretation of 1Timothy 2:9-12.
  2. 1 Timothy 2:11 – There is a misunderstanding and misapplication of the text related to “silence” and women applied to preaching/speaking opportunities in worship: Silence does not mean silence. As in 1 Corinthians 14:34, the instructions for silence must be taken in the context of the situation. Paul cannot mean that women must be completely silent; otherwise women cannot publicly declare their own salvation in church.  The context must suggest that women be allowed to learn in an environment with order.  The problem Paul is addressing in Ephesus is similar to Corinth where women are stepping out of their roles opposing the men.  Why else would Paul have to address their appearance as he did in 1 Corinthians 11:3-16? Again, the definition of the term “silence” has been misunderstood and misapplied.
  1. 1 Timothy 2:12 – There is a failure to understand the historical context of Paul’s instructions when he referenced “Teach” and “have authority.” This was not an outright prohibition but rather was instructional on “how” the teaching should occur. When Paul says that he does not allow a woman to teach or have full power over a man, he is saying this with focus on abuse of authority and teaching.  In classical Greek the substantive form of the verb used (to have authority) is referring to a person who acts with so much unrestraint that they are like a murderer or someone who takes one’s life by force.  Paul does not mean that women should not be able to teach, preach, or have any ability to speak in church.  If he meant that, then 1 Corinthians 11:3-16 would be contradictory.  So, either Paul meant for his instructions in Ephesus to be different from Corinth, or we are misinterpreting what he meant for Ephesus.  Paul is speaking of women dominating the man in worship.  Women should not have complete or full authority over the men.  Rather, women should be allowed to preach and teach under the counsel and authority of men.
  1. 1 Timothy 2:13-15 – Applying The Creation Story to Eve—but not to Adam is flawed: “There is a serious theological contradiction in telling a woman when she comes to faith in Christ, her personal sins are forgiven but she must continue to be punished for the sins of Eve” (Richard Clark Kroeger, Catherine Kroeger, I Suffer Not A Woman, Baker Book House, pp. 21-22).

The Creation Story is meant to protect women not oppress them. Paul mentions Adam’s creation prior to Eve not to argue that women are to be beneath the heel of a men but that women are to be covered and protected by men (1 Corinthians 11:3ff).  Especially in this setting, where the cultural climate lent itself to empowering women in mystical and religious matters, Paul was urging the church to buck the trend of the world and keep biblical order.  If there are women who are attempting to overrule the men in the congregation, or there was a temptation to allow Christian women who believe there was neither male nor female (Galatians 3:28) to dominate; there is a failure to understand the historical context of Paul’s instructions when he referenced “Teach” and “have authority.” This was not an outright prohibition but rather was instructional on “how” the teaching should occur. Just as we abuse Scripture today, it was easy to abuse Galatians 3:28 and argue that there were no longer any differences, and women should be the heads now.  Paul had to support his position with the Bible.  The Scripture taught that when God’s order got perverted, women were the ones who were deceived. That meant that men should help them learn in silence, in an orderly environment.

  1. Too many people are overlooking Hermeneutics 101: It demands all to interpret Scripture with Scripture. It is necessary to compare Scripture with Scripture to find the correct meaning. We must understand 1 Timothy 2:12 in light of every other relevant message concerning gender roles in ministry in the Bible. By doing so, we could not possibly conclude what Paul meant in 1 Timothy 2:12, is for a female to never, ever, be given the opportunity to preach in the Lord’s Day of Worship.

The Bible may contain paradoxes, perplexities, and problems but not outright contradictions.

Quoting the late L.E. Maxwell, he “declared that more than a hundred passages in the Bible affirm women in roles of leadership, and fewer than half a dozen appear to be in opposition” (Kroeger, p. 33). We must seek to understand the role of women by the more than hundred affirmative verses, not just the few that appear to be unduly restrictive.

Phoebe and Jezebel are examples of females who addressed the congregation on the Lord’s Day of worship (Romans 16:1-2; Revelations 2:18-23).

Phoebe addressed the congregation at the direction of Paul. Jezebel addressed the congregation at Thyatira by the permission of “the angel of the house”—male leadership. Phoebe followed instructions. Jezebel spoke contrary to the Word and Will of God. But the speaking hour was not off limits to her based on gender. Her disqualification was based on false teaching, which is the same thing that men are often rebuked for in Scripture.

I think we need to acknowledge that, however firmly we hold our convictions; there might be some things we don’t know. It seems those who hold firmly to “I don’t suffer a woman to teach” will often dismiss “let the women keep silent.”