Question: In what capacity may a woman teach? Please explain the restrictions placed on women in 1 Timothy 2:11-12.
There has been, for quite sometime now, a push on the part of some to give women more exposure in the church. . . . Just today I received a religious journal in which one writer told about receiving a call from a preacher who said, Women are taking an increasingly, active, public role in the work of this church, and the elders say it is alright because they have told the women to do so, thus, they are not usurping authority, but are acting under the elders direction. Many among us would respond to that by saying, I told you so, or I could have predicted that would happen since these churches have had women teaching in classes for years. It only logically follows that sooner or later women would want in the pulpit. Well it appears that it will be sooner than later. But what said the scripture?
Paul in, 1 Timothy 2:11-12, wrote, Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. In these verses the writer talks about a learning process and a teaching process. Women are to be silent in both. They may neither ask or answer a question. Of the word teach in this verse Thayer says to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them, deliver didactic discourses. A woman is out of place in the pulpit. In fact this passage keeps a woman out of the pulpit whether it be a literal one or figurative one. That is one where she assumes the prerogative of standing before others and teaching them. That is not her role. Why? Because according to our writer Adam was first formed then Eve, and Eve was first in the transgression.
Those who claim that these verses in 1 Timothy apply only to an assembly of the church, miss the mark. If such were true then women could teach or preach over radio, television, or on the street corner. If not, why not? What scripture would forbid it? It might surprise you that some among us already believe that a woman can do these things. What scripture would forbid a woman going downtown and standing on a street corner and proclaiming the gospel to all who would listen, if not this very passage? The street corner is not a church assembly, nor is the radio or television.
Where then may a woman teach and under what circumstances? In Acts 18:26 we have the account of Aquila and his wife Priscilla taking Apollos unto themselves and teaching him the way of the Lord more perfectly. Note carefully that they took him unto themselves. In a private and informal manner they individually instructed this man. They did not advertise, announce, or broadcast the study. Hence in circumstances similar to this a woman may teach. She may teach her children (2 Tim. 1:5 and 3:15). In Titus 2:3-4 older women are charged with admonishing (training) younger women. In none of these passages do we find any hint of women organizing brotherhood wide womens studies where women come together and are taught by other women. Women who organize such are entirely out of their role and women who attend and teach are likewise out of their role. Both are in violation of 1 Timothy 2:11-12.
Published in the OPA March, 2002