1 Timothy 2:11-14: Silence!5:00 AM
Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. -- 1 Timothy 2:11-14A good while ago I listened to a leader of the patriarchy movement teach on the role of women in the church. I understood I was to say nothing -- not a peep -- and that's all. No further elaboration on the roles and responsibilities of women in the body of Christ. That talk gave this passage a humiliating twist. Whenever I read it, I felt reminded that my words were disruptive and unwanted, and my heart easily deceived. For a curious girl with a heart for teaching and discipleship, that crushed me. I think I wrestled with this passage more than any other: I was fine submitting to a husband who loved me, but to be silenced in a place where discipleship opportunities were rampant? Ouch. Why, God?
Thankfully, I was introduced to better hermeneutics (praise God for David Platt!). In order to properly interpret and apply this passage, we've got to understand three key concepts:
-- Context, context, context.
-- The rest of the Bible.
We must understand where a passage falls (under law or under grace, in what book, between passages, in what argument, in what train of thought, etc.), who the passage was originally meant for, and what the rest of the Bible says about the same topic.
In this case, the passage lies right before the qualifications for overseers/elders. The entire of book of 1 Timothy deals with combating false doctrine and maintaining order in the church. There's a little bit of routine housekeeping: taking on disruption, addressing interpersonal communication, caring for widows and overseers/elders. Timothy is the audience, of course, a young pastor with a church beset by false teaching.
It turns out that the Ephesian women weren't much better than the Corinthian women. The false doctrine of asceticism roamed quite a bit in the Ephesian church, forbidding marriage and creating the problem of idle gossipers. For whatever reason, women (perhaps since the culture offered little else to them) bought into these false teachers. They didn't settle to just believe them, however: they spread that false doctrine (maybe on their daily gossip routes -- who knows?). False doctrine provoked these women to buck the authority of the local church. They were not listening quietly to sound doctrine, and they certainly weren't submissive to that authority. The Ephesian church was not the only one beset with gossips and quarrelers (male and female), and Paul addressed this problem in the Corinthian church as well.
That's the context. To set the church right-side up again, Paul lays out proper church order: the women (and men not in leadership) are to sit quietly under elder authority.
Some have tried to teach that women are to zip their lip in church, but that contradicts Scripture: women are encouraged to pray, prophesy and speak in tongues in the assembly under the authority of elders and their husbands (1 Corinthians 11) and in guidelines with general church structure (one at a time, no pushing and shoving, etc.). On numerous occasions Paul recognizes women as vital parts of both his ministry and local churches. There is evidence that there were deaconesses, that churches met in women's homes and that some women held enough prominence to be mentioned by name. The infamous Euodia and Syntyche must have held some sort of prominence in the local assembly for their quarrel to be of importance to Paul.
Women are even allowed -- and commanded -- to teach. Everyone's familiar with older women teaching younger women (Titus 2), and it's common practice for women to teach children (as with Timothy's mother and grandmother). But women are also seen teaching men: Priscilla and her husband Aquila took the passionate but ignorant Apollos aside and taught him sound doctrine (Acts 18:26).
So which is it -- silence or teaching? Submission or authority?
Remember the context of the passage and the audience it was written to. This is right before the qualifications of overseers/elders; this is smack dab in an epidemic of false doctrine and disruptive women. Paul is saying that he does not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man as an elder or overseer. Instead, she ought to be submissive to the overseers/elders' authority and to not subvert the sound doctrine they teach. In case anyone asked, Paul pointed to the creation order for his reason: Adam was created first, Eve second; Adam was charged with protecting his wife from deception. That order carries into the church: the overseers/elders are charged with protecting the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, women and men, from false doctrine. Women and men who are not overseers/elders submit to that servant leadership and protection.
Proper church order slows down false doctrine: false doctrine is easier to spot and dismantle ASAP. In all his pastoral epistles, Paul aims for this goal: to aid the proclamation of Christ's Gospel by good church order. This passage does not silence women; instead it empowers all believers to function together in the church for the glory of Christ Jesus.