Role of Women in the Church, 1 Timothy 2:12, Minority Report (2023)

Editor’s Note: This committee was formed as a result of a petition from the floor of the 2021 Conference. This report below was received by the 2023 Conference. A substitute motion/legislation was made from the floor. It did not pass. The majority committee’s legislation was presented and did not pass. The Role of Women minority report was received. Its legislation did not pass. At the 2024 Conference, the study committee reported that they were unable to come up with unified legislation. The committee was thanked for their work and dissolved. 2023 Minutes 2024 Minutes

Study Committee on the Role of Women in the Church (Minority Report)

It is our conviction that now is the time for the Bible Fellowship Church to make clear its belief regarding Scripture’s prohibition for women to teach or to exercise authority over men within the local church, as stated in 1 Timothy 2:12. With respect to our colleagues who form the majority opinion, we do not believe their proposed resolution fully represents the instruction of the biblical text nor protects the BFC from the growing societal and cultural pressure on this issue. While most of our churches have functioned with a unified understanding and application of the prohibition in 1 Timothy 2:12, there is a pressing concern that this unity is being challenged.

Since the 1960s there has been a gradual rise in the influence of an evangelical feminist hermeneutic that has sought to minimize and dismiss the distinct roles of men and women within the local church. Multitudes of churches and denominations have collapsed under the pressure to compromise the teaching of Scripture on this matter. From mainline denominations like Evangelical Lutheran, the Reformed Church in America, and the PCUSA (Presbyterian Church-USA), to more conservative denominations such as the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) and PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) many have been influenced and effected by this movement. While we would not accuse churches within the BFC of adopting an evangelical feminist hermeneutic, it is naïve to think that we are exempt from the threat of compromise.

It is our contention that the BFC’s ability to maintain functional unity on this issue has been more the result of unspoken doctrinal pre-commitments about not having women preachers than it has been about an established stated belief built upon hermeneutical convictions. This study committee was launched out of concern for a disregard of the commands given in 1 Timothy 2:12. The fact that our proposed legislation is the minority view on our committee only serves to heighten our concern.

Christ rules over and gives guidance to his church by his Word. As Paul states in 1 Timothy 3:14-15, “I am writing these things to you so that … you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” Thus, it is necessary for us, in a spirit of submission and worship, to seek out what God requires for his church. A failure to heed God’s instruction for the church diminishes our effectiveness as a pillar and buttress of the truth, brings shame on our Lord, and hinders the spiritual growth of those under the care of the church.

We believe that our proposed legislation represents the instruction given in 1 Timothy 2:12, does justice to the text by not clouding its authority and purpose in interpretive confusion, and allows for local elders to lead their congregations in the application of its teaching.

The complementarian position, which recognizes distinct roles for men and women in the home and in the church, seems unloving and discriminatory to many, and the general atmosphere of our society encourages people to liberate themselves from traditional views. But the warning from theologian John Leith has proven true: “Theology becomes self-destructive when its primary goal is accommodation to culture.”[1] And many theologians are waking up to the destruction this recent wave of compromise has caused the church.[2] One such author writes,

The impact of a consumerist, therapeutic culture can be seen in the way that traditionalist evangelical feminism focuses on using the Bible to meet the perceived needs of the individual and in its reliance on individual reason to judge the truth of Scripture, without the assistance of an institutional and historical church. This trend, which emphasizes individual preference and rationality, indicates that even in evangelicalism, authority has been minimized.[3]

We believe 1 Timothy 2:8-15 provides specific instructions for men and women as to how they are to conduct themselves within the context of the gathered church. Men are instructed to pray with holy hands free of anger and quarreling (v. 8). That is, there is to be sincerity and integrity in their public demonstrations of worship and spiritual leadership. The instructions to women fall into two categories: that of their adornment (vv. 9-10) and their role in the church with respect to men (vv. 11-12). This is then followed by Paul’s rationale (vv. 13-14) and a closing word of encouragement regarding the honor of womanhood (v. 15).

Our position upholds Paul’s dual prohibition in 1 Timothy 2:12, which prohibits a woman from teaching or exercising authority over a man within the assembly of the gathered church. It thus falls upon the local elders to protect and implement this instruction as under-shepherds to the Chief Shepherd. Biblical instruction carries with it inherent authority and when given to the church, God calls upon men to fill the role of teacher. In addition, when functioning as a minister and servant of the church, a woman is not to govern, preside, or rule over a man in carrying out the ministry of the church. 

Our position does not exclude or diminish the proper use of a woman’s giftedness as a teacher of God’s Word. Nor does it preclude a woman from giving instruction or guidance to men on various matters in church life. We whole-heartedly recommend that local elders take seriously the need to train and instruct the women of their congregation so they might be able to train other women. Where a woman proves exemplary in communication and biblical instruction, we consider it the responsibility of the local elders to foster this giftedness with appropriate opportunities for teaching. Also, it is proper and wise for men in leadership to seek out the counsel and instruction of godly women on various matters pertaining to the church and biblical instruction for which a woman might be particularly gifted, trained, or experienced. It is in submission to God’s Word on this matter that women are properly honored, cared for, and esteemed.

In direct response to our colleagues, Paul is not merely prohibiting non-elders from usurping the role and function of an elder. Nor is he merely prohibiting a woman from usurping the role of an elder. While teaching and exercising authority are the prerogative of the elders, 1 Tim. 2:12 specifically applies this prohibition to women in their relation to men.

Our Faith and Order properly recognizes that only qualified men are to serve as elders in the local church. But the teaching of 1 Timothy 2:12 also prohibits women from carrying out the practices of teaching or exercising authority over men.

This is evidenced further by Paul’s rationale in vv. 13-14. He references Adam’s position of being created prior to Eve as a demonstration of the proper roles in the church and as something that was established at creation. The Genesis account expands on the significance of Eve being created after Adam; she was created from Adam; it is Adam who names Eve; she was given responsibility to help Adam fulfill God’s mandate to be fruitful and multiply; she was to receive God’s instruction regarding the tree through Adam, which was given to him prior to her creation (Gen. 2:16-17).

First Timothy 2:14 presses the matter further by reminding the reader that it was a rejection of this God-ordained order of leadership and instruction by which sin entered the world. Rather than the woman following her head (Adam), she follows one of the creatures. And Adam, rather than acting as head, follows his wife. Note that Genesis 3:17 specifically condemns Adam for “listening to the voice of his wife, and eating of the tree…”

Paul’s argumentation is that this order of instruction and authority must be maintained in the local church and regarded as good and right before the Lord. The issue is not one of gifting. No one would deny that women have considerable gifts, even teaching gifts. The issue is whether God has directed the use and exercise of these gifts in a specific manner for the building up of his church.

Both men and women reflect the image of God and together constitute the human race (Gen. 1:26-27). Both men and women are redeemed in Christ and share together the privilege of being heirs of the grace of life (Galatians 3:28, 1 Peter 3:7). Though equal in who they are before the Lord, men and women are not called upon to fill equal roles in the home and in the church.

The Bible teaches that in the home and in the church, God has assigned positions and functions of leadership to men. In marriage this is intended to model the relationship of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31-32). The church is portrayed in Scripture as a larger family which is governed in the same way (1 Tim. 3:4-5).

Accordingly, the church is to be led by elders, all of whom are qualified Christian men (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). For this reason, the Bible explicitly forbids women from the two activities within the church which are most descriptive of an elder’s work—teaching and exercising governing authority (1 Tim. 2:11-15). This prohibition is clearly grounded in the order of God’s creation, not on circumstances that surround humanity’s fall into sin nor any other cultural consideration.

Proposed legislation

Whereas, Jesus Christ is the Lord of His church and has left us His Word to direct and instruct His church, and

Whereas,1 Timothy 3:15 states that this letter was written “that one may know how to behave in the household of God,” and

Whereas, 1 Timothy 2:12 gives specific instruction on how women are to conduct themselves with respect to men in the gathered church, and

Whereas,1 Timothy 2:12 prohibits women from teaching or exercising authority over men in the gathered church, and

Whereas,a refusal to submit to this instruction is in opposition to Jesus Christ’s authority over His church, and

Whereas, clarity and unity on gender roles in the church has become a distinctive belief for churches and denominations, therefore be it

Resolved,that we codify our position on women teaching or exercising authority over men by adding the following statement to Article 18 – The Church

“Teaching in the gathered assembly of the church is to be done by qualified men under the oversight of the elders.”

And be it further

Resolved,that we codify our position on women teaching or exercising authority over men by adding the following statement to Article 18 – The Church

“Preaching in the gathered assembly of the church is to be done by qualified men under the oversight of the elders.”

And be it further

Resolved, that we codify our position on women teaching or exercising authority over men by adding the following statement to Article 18 – The Church

“Functions of governing authority over the church are to be done by qualified men under the oversight of the elders.”

Respectfully Submitted,

Study Committee on the role of women in the church (minority opinion): Daniel Z. Krall, John R. LoRusso, Joshua P. Miller, Keith A. Strunk

Supplemental Papers

“A Look at 1 Timothy 2:12 in its Context”

First Timothy 2:12 supplies no shortage of difficulties and challenges, both in its interpretation and in its application. But we must not disparage these challenges or the discussions and arguments that surround them as though they are a tedious and useless burden. When done in faith and in submission to the Spirit and His Word, these discussions can produce the fruit of precision and a fuller understanding of the Spirit’s direction for his church.

It is undeniable that 1 Tim. 2:12 forbids a woman from teaching or exercising authority over a man. To deny this is to render words and phrases as meaningless and attempts at communication useless. But, of course, this doesn’t end the discussion. Quite the contrary, it provokes a litany of good and consequential questions pertaining to both meaning and application – What is the meaning of “quiet”? Is this instruction limited to a specific situation? Does this instruction include all forms of teaching, in both public and private settings? Is the teaching here connected to “exercising authority,” or are they distinct? How might the church apply this instruction?

The immediate context of 2:8-12 picks up Paul’s instruction that began in verse 1, where he called upon the congregation to pray for all people. Verse 8 calls upon the men “in every place” to pray, “lifting holy hands without anger or quarrelling.”

It is safe to conclude that the phrase “in every place” refers to the various places that Christians gathered together in community. Thus, the instructions he gives are to be applied within the context of the local church.[4] Also, notice that Paul’s instruction is not just ad hoc guidance for the local situation in Ephesus, but to those “in every place,” what 1 Tim. 3:15 refers to as the “household of God.”[5] What Paul is presenting here is a general presentation of decorum for the believer within the household of God.

Returning to verse 8, the prayer posture of lifting hands is not Paul’s focus. There were all sorts of prayer postures represented in the Bible–lying prostrate, standing, kneeling–and not one is preferred above the other. Rather, as one prays it is to be done with a holiness marked by peacefulness, absent of anger and quarrelling. Paul’s instruction moves from the outward act or appearance of prayer to the internal attitude of the heart. Thus, as the men prayed, they should do so without animosity and an argumentative spirit, which seemed to be an issue in Ephesus (6:3-5).

Verses 9-15 continue Paul’s instruction to the household of God but shifts the focus from men to women. You will notice that the “likewise” that begins this verse serves to connect the flow of thought. Where Paul had instructions for the men, he likewise has instructions for the women. He calls upon women to dress in respectable apparel, and he qualifies this with three clarifying statements. First, women are to dress with modesty and self-control. Second, women are not to adorn themselves with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire. And third, they are to adorn themselves with good works. In summary, women are to avoid flaunting their wealth and are to resist using sensuality to draw attention to themselves and instead demonstrate propriety and strive to gain a reputation of good works. “A woman’s adornment, in short, lies not in what she herself puts on, but in the loving service she gives out.”[6]

It is sometimes argued that because Paul makes a cultural reference to braided hair in 2:9 that the other commands to women in this text are cultural and we are free disregard them as well. But Paul’s main point was not to prohibit braiding hair, gold, or pearls. None of these things were intrinsically wrong. The problem was in the abuse of these things when used to draw attention to oneself. 

Paul continues in verse 11, “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.” This phrase is not meant to be condescending or discouraging to women, for it is worth noting that Paul’s invitation for a woman to learn the Scriptures would have been counter-cultural within the educational system of Judaism. Paul was eager to have women learn the Word, provided they did so in quietness with all submissiveness.

The call to quietness[7] is not a call to silence but is a command to avoid contention and disruption; to be settled and peaceable. It is used this way earlier in the chapter in 1 Tim. 2:2, “…that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life.” The prepositional phrase “with all submissiveness” gives the explanation for how they are to learn in quietness. Within the household of God, women are to cultivate a spirit of submission, honoring the God-ordained design for men and women.
               Verses 11-12 seem to form a single unit, with two commands for quietness bracketing the instruction. In the middle we are given the explanation and application of this call to quietness: namely, that women are not to teach and should not have authority over a man.

It is possible that Paul’s explanation of what it means to learn with quietness and full submission was confronting some sort of abuse going on in the church. Maybe there was a group of women who were teaching error and needed to be silenced. Maybe there was a pervasive rejection of God-ordained order in the home and church that Paul needed to confront. Maybe women were unlearned and needed to first be taught before they became teachers. But to use any of these potential background matters to nullify a clear command regarding the household of God is dubious and is a potentially dangerous hermeneutic technique. The passage says nothing about the women teaching error or being unlearned (Remember, Paul was in Ephesus for three years, teaching night and day, Acts 20:31). And Paul is not shy about confronting false teaching as he does in 1 Tim. 1:3 and 6:3; yet that is not what he does here. The prohibition is against women teaching men.[8]

In addition, some place undue weight on the notion that Ephesus was a sort of breeding ground for first-century radical feminism, and thus Paul’s instruction for quietness with all submission is a counter to the influence this feminism was having upon the church. It is true that the cult of the goddess Artemis, complete with a massive temple complex and worship practices, was located in Ephesus. But from what we are given in the New Testament it appears that Ephesus was a typical Greco-Roman city and that extreme feminism was not infiltrating Timothy’s congregation.

We are introduced to Ephesus in Acts 19, and all the leading characters in the city mentioned by Luke are men. Demetrius, who made silver shrines to Artemis (Acts 19:24), was a man. Demetrius addresses the crowd as men (19:25). The town clerk was a man (19:35). The Asiarchs (high priests of Asia) in 19:31 were most likely men. The biblical presentation of Ephesus gives no indication that men were not in charge of the religious activities and political interests in the city.[9]

At a minimum, it seems a bit of an overreach to interpret Paul’s command through the lens of some presumed radical feminism that was encroaching on the church in Ephesus. Not to mention the point made previously about 1 Timothy 2:8 and 3:15, where Paul indicates his emphasis was not particularly narrow, but concerned “every place” and “the whole household of God.” Certainly, every piece of literature is influenced by the situation of its recipients, yet the principles set forth in his writing should not be dismissed as culturally limited.

The next command is “nor to exercise authority over a man.” As with the practice of teaching, Paul is not here confronting some abusive domineering by women. Albert Wolters, who has done extensive work on the term authenteo, demonstrates from the term’s cognates (the immediate context, ancient versions, patristic commentary, and the broad usage of the verb elsewhere) that it is very unlikely for the term to have a pejorative or an ingressive meaning.

Since Paul in this text forbids women to teach and exercise “authority” of some kind and tells them instead to be quiet and submissive, we can reasonably assume that he is addressing a situation in Ephesus where women were doing (or proposing to do) what he is here prohibiting. But this reasonable assumption is often expanded into the broader claim that women were doing these prohibited things in an aggressive or overbearing manner and by so doing were disturbing the church. However, the text, in fact, gives no evidence for such a reading. We have no reason to believe that the women in Ephesus were teaching and exercising authority in an aggressive or overbearing way…The negative portrayal of the Ephesian women teachers as strident demagogues is, in fact, a speculative reconstruction of the situation in Ephesus at the time, and cannot be used as evidence that “authenteo” carries a pejorative sense.[10]

According to this text, women in the household of God are prohibited from two distinct but related activities: teaching men and exercising authority over men. Paul has stated the principle positively, “Let a women learn in quietness with all submission,” and has further explained what this means with his prohibition, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man.”

In verses 13-14, Paul proceeds to give two reasons for his instruction. First, Adam was formed first. Second, Eve was deceived. This is a kindness of Paul, for he owes no defense for his apostolic instruction given previously.

The first reason given demonstrates that this order of authority and submission was established prior to the fall of mankind into sin, is thus part of God’s good plan, andis to be honored and protected within the household of God. Adam’s position as the one who names, leads, and protects was established in his formation. Eve’s position as the one who nurtures, helps, and supports was established in her formation.[11]

The second reason given by Paul is not quite as clear. He is certainly not saying that the woman’s position of submission is some sort of punishment, for he has just noted that the order of authority/instruction and submission was established before Eve’s fall into sin. I am inclined toward the explanation that sees Paul’s reference to Eve’s deception as a statement about what happens when the roles are reversed. Eve took the lead and Adam failed to lead and, having abandoned God’s ordained positioning, opened themselves up to deception. This explanation fits with Paul’s focus of the text, which has been on the roles of men and women in the household of God.

As such there is both a reason and a warning given here by Paul. If the women in the church refuse to act in submission to the God-ordained order established at creation, refusing to learn in quietness with all submission and instead seeking roles that have been reserved for men in the church, they will make the same mistake as Eve and open the household of God to destructive consequences.

“A Consideration of the Term Authentein

In the wider debate among evangelicals concerning women in ministry, 1 Timothy 2:12 lies at the center, and within the discussion of 1 Timothy 2:12, the meaning and application of the Greek term authentein is the most controversial. Thus, it is worthy of an extended evaluation.

The most common definition of authentein is “to have or to exercise authority over.” But wait, that can’t be what it really means, can it? The cultural norm today would immediately drive one to think that there must be some other meaning to this word. While it is always good and healthy to have questions and seek to answer them biblically, assigning meaning to a biblical word or phrase can only be done in ways that are consistent with the rest of Scripture and do not violate the hermeneutical rules that are necessary for biblical interpretation. This particular Greek word (authentein) is used only once in all the Bible—in 1 Timothy 2:12. A term used in this way is called a hapax legomena, of which there are singular occurrences in the New Testament. Whenever a term such as this occurs, the meaning can and should be determined first by its plain normal reading within its biblical context, and then any insights gained from extra biblical usage within its historical/cultural timeframe and context can then be allowed to influence our definition. 

               Since the plain normal reading of the word means “to exercise or to have authority over,” and we observe that there are no pressing biblical arguments to cause a reevaluation of its previously understood meaning, we must acknowledge that the orthodox historical, biblical usage over the centuries hasn’t changed. This interpretation would be consistent with Bible translators of the NIV, NKJV, RSV, ESV, NAS, and many others. 

After the plain reading of the words used by Paul in his apostolic authoritative writing, we next move to the overall context to discover the meaning. We believe the context of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 gives us conclusive evidence for how to interpret the term. Scholar Henry Scott Baldwin of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School said “language must be viewed as an interconnected system wherein the context provides the clues to the meaning of the words used.”  He goes on to give a helpful example from the English language. “Every competent English speaker knows that ‘raise’ may have several distinct meanings: ‘to raise the flag,’ ‘to raise corn in Nebraska,’ ‘to raise children.’ Our ability to contextualize alerts us to the fact that by “raise” we do not mean ‘nurture the flag,’ ‘hoist corn,’ or ‘plant and water children.’”  

When we hear a word, we hear it within the context or situation in which we have heard it or similar words before. This explanation fits well in 1 Timothy 2:12. The immediate context certainly suggests that authentein has to do with the exercise of authority and is directed to the relationship between women and men in the local church. It remains then, in line with other role/gender distinctions concerning leadership and the exercise of authority in the home and the church throughout the Scriptures (1 Cor. 11:3, 8, 9). First Cor. 14:33-35 supports this interpretation, as do a host of gender specific references penned by the Holy Spirit: Gen. 2:18, Gen. 3:16, Col. 3, 1 Pet. 3:1-7, Eph. 5:22-33, to name a few.

Paul goes on to ground this prohibition in 1 Tim. 2:12 with the Creation order referred to in 2:13-14—an indispensable foundation for our contextual interpretation. Without getting into the application of 2:15, what we can take away is that it certainly supports the foundational aspects of 2:13-14. Regarding verse 15, Philip Ryken states in his expository commentary on 1 Timothy, “A culture may do everything it can to obliterate the differences between males and females, but there is one thing it can never do: make men give birth. Labor and delivery are unique to women, a divinely ordained fact which indicates the differences between men and women are rooted in creation.” The vast majority of what we understand about the Scriptures are based on our belief of the actual historical narrative of the Scriptures in Genesis chapters 1 through 11. 

Regarding Paul’s use of authentein, some of this is the very “quarreling over words” that Paul spoke negatively of and warned about in 2 Timothy 2:14. Yes, we need to carefully interpret the words of the biblical text, but we do so in order to seek understanding as governed by the context of the passage, the book, and certainly of the whole Bible. To over-interpret this word and conclude that Paul intended to allow for a hidden meaning that would actually give women the very authority over men in the gathered church that the text was written to prohibit is to twist and pervert Scripture.

               It becomes evident that this discussion is about more than 1 Timothy 2:11-15; it is about what we believe concerning the perspicuity, sufficiency, and authority of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16).  

Responding to Common Arguments 

It is claimed that authentein in 1 Timothy 2:12 is unclear and cannot be understood because it is a hapax legomenon (i.e. only one occurrence of the term in the New Testament). However, there are over 600 hapax legomena in the New Testament. If we questioned the interpretive clarity of all the passages where hapax legomena occurred, we would begin to follow in the footsteps of Thomas Jefferson, who notoriously cut out all the portions of Scripture that he found problematic.  

Extra-biblical usage as a consideration in defining this term is no simple task. Contemporaneous usage of this word is almost non-existent. Of the eight occurrences that can be sited as probably used before 312 AD, Al Wolters states “most are debatable in one way or another, either because the text is dubious, the context is unclear, or the date disputed.” The obvious lack of usage of this verb only leads us back to the conclusion as stated above: the understood context of the usage of this word is its best guide to interpretation as well as our complete dependence on the holy Scriptures to bear a proper relationship to the thoughts of other inspired books of the infallible Word of God. 

In addition, the pastoral epistles in general apply to the life of the gathered church. First Timothy 3:15 says, “If I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” 

Another common argument is that the interpreter is free to dismiss the instruction given in 1 Tim. 2:12 because the passage is bound to a specific historical context and local controversy in the first century Ephesian church. Margaret E. Kostenberger helpfully responds to this argument: 

While it can be at times helpful to read between the lines, we’ll want to be careful not to substitute an unstated possible background for what is stated explicitly in the text. This is especially true since what Paul says here about women dressing modestly, learning quietly with all submissiveness, and submitting to male authority in the church is amply corroborated by Pauline and New Testament teaching elsewhere (see 1 Cor. 11:2-16, 14:33b-36; Eph. 5:21-33; 1 Pet.3:1-7). In other words, writings addressed to Corinth or Rome contain the same injunctions to women as Paul’s first letter to Timothy, which makes it less likely that 1 Timothy 2 is some kind of special teaching. 

The verse specifically, and the passage more generally, refers to the role of men and women toward each other in the gathered church and is consistent with the instruction given throughout the rest of Scripture—which is why Paul is free to base his instruction in the Creation order of Genesis 2-3.

Still others point to the examples of women giving instruction and prophesying in the New Testament as an argument that 1 Tim. 2:12 doesn’t actually mean what it says. While we can all fully endorse the wise biblical teaching of women in many circumstances, we must remember that the prohibition is directed to men and women in the context of the gathered church. Here are some examples:

  1. Speaking about Apollos, Acts 18:26 says, “He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” We can happily admit that Priscilla contributed to the explanation given to Apollos. However, it is important to note that they were not in the gathered church but outside of that setting “took him aside.” This passage actually serves to strengthen the argument of the clear meaning of 1 Tim. 2:12. 
  2. Acts 21:9 tells us that the unmarried daughters of Philip prophesied. But as we read on in 21:10, it is observed that these daughters did not speak for many days but waited until a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Verse 11 states, “And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, ‘Thus says the Holy Spirit.’” Why is there no prophecy until Agabus arrives? Could it be that there was a difference in their roles? It is also important to observe that this is not an example of the gathered church, nor are the women teaching. It is thus improper to use this as a defense for women teaching over men in the gathered church.
  3. Another example often cited is Paul’s commendation of women as co-workers in Romans 16. Because they served alongside him, they should be permitted to serve in the teaching roles of the church. But this is to assume too much of the text. Paul says nothing about them teaching in the context of the gathered church.
  4. The accounts of the prophetess Anna in Luke 2:36-38 and the fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32—of women prophesying as given in Acts 2:14-21—each fall outside the parameters of 1 Timothy 2:12. The women are speaking to unbelievers, not in the gathered church of the saints, which is exactly like our present-day missionary women do daily out in the unbelieving world. Praise God! 

Some argue that the Greek term translated “to teach” can have both an authoritative and non-authoritative function, and that Paul is merely prohibiting non-authoritative teaching in 1 Tim. 2:12. This is to make a mockery of a clear New Testament term. The basic definition of the Greek word didasko is to give another person information or instruction, which inherently implies authority. No teacher teaches without this authority over his or her students, pupils, or disciples. To teach is to exercise some measure of authority.

Another attack on the clear meaning of 1 Tim. 2:12 is that Paul’s use of Adam and Eve in 2:13-14 is unclear and inconclusive. However, Paul uses this pre-fall explanation as incontrovertible evidence of the truth of verse 12. Adam was created prior to Eve; thus the idea that the responsibility of leadership, authority, and instruction rested with him flows directly and naturally from the account given in Genesis 2:1-24. Paul goes on to add in 1 Tim. 2:14 a second reason supporting his instruction in 2:12. “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” This is not to say Adam didn’t sin, but that we should take notice of the fact that the devil avoided the one in authority and went to Eve, tempting her to act apart from Adam, and he then used her to lead Adam into sin. Gender roles are here evidenced as biblical and necessary for spiritual protection. Paul uses the example of Adam and Eve to defend his prohibition of women teaching men, not non-elders teaching elders or anyone else.

 Finally, freeing up women to use their gifts of teaching in the context intended is a wonderfully desirous thing that honors the Lord. 1 Timothy 2:11 is clear that women are to learn. “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.” Titus 2:3–5 tells us “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” 

Let us give all that we are, and all we have been created to be, to obeying the Lord within the roles He intends for us. When we leave those bounds, we invite deception and instability to the church.

Some may find the biblical instruction offensive, particularly in this cultural moment. While this ungodly culture attempts to obliterate all gender specific identification and roles, rendering us indistinct without the created, colorful sexual identity that God created, we must resist it and declare with our Lord that this created order is very good, as stated in Genesis 1:31—“God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”)

“Consideration of Paul’s use of oude in 1 Timothy 2:12:

A response to the majority report”

Our culture is wreaking havoc on the church. The “Social Justice Movement” is corrupting the gospel of Jesus Christ in such a way that many churches have abandoned a biblical philosophy of ministry that focuses on the salvation of lost souls to eternal life with Christ in favor of one that focuses more, or even exclusively, on the temporal needs of the oppressed in the here and now.

Feminism is certainly a part of that movement, for it involves the characterization of men as the oppressors and thus includes women with the oppressed. Terms like “toxic masculinity” are becoming commonplace, even in some churches. But even in churches where that movement may not seem to be intentional or overt, we still find traces of it in the deconstruction of biblical texts that clearly delineate divinely-established roles for men and women: most notably, 1 Timothy 2:12.

This deconstruction of the plain meaning of the text often begins with the coordinating conjunction between the two verbs in the text: the Greek word oude, translated “or.” “I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man…”

Greek scholars agree that this conjunction syntactically indicates two separate prohibitions, neither one qualifying the other. Yet many in this debate either ignore oude completely or claim that it confuses the text to the point that we must not assert any dogma in our interpretation of it—which is a familiar tactic used in deconstructing the Bible and its doctrines in general.

But the words of Scripture matter, even this little word, and it is a key to what Paul was teaching his protege. But without oude or without a clear understanding of its purpose in the text, we’re free to imagine other ideas about the text, such as the idea that Paul was really trying to say “I’d prefer if a woman didn’t teach authoritatively over men in church.” Many have understood the text this way, seeing only one prohibition, using authentein to qualify didaskein,however inaccurate it may be to do so.

Andreas Kostenberger represents our understanding of how these terms relate to one another:

To sum up this point, it is important to keep in mind that oude functions as a coordinating conjunction in 1 Timothy 2:12, and as such—particularly as a negative conjunction—it does not combine two separate elements in the sense that it excludes any consideration of those elements individually. While the elements may overlap conceptually and a larger “single idea” may legitimately be posited that encompasses or includes both elements, they retain a certain degree of distinctness. Bringing this greater nuance into the present analysis of 1 Timothy 2:12 and given a proper understanding of didaskein and authentein, if we were to set forth an overarching “single idea” from the compound prohibition of 1 Timothy 2:12, it would be that women ought not to serve in authoritative positions, whether by teaching men (as part of the entire congregation) or by ruling over men. These functions, both of which are reserved for male elders (1 Timothy 3:1-2), are closely related while retaining a level of distinctness…Exercising authority is evidently the broader concept, for authority may be exercised in ways other than teaching: by making decisions binding upon the entire church, for instance, or by exercising church discipline. Conversely, the sort of teaching Paul has in mind always involves this exercise of authority. The two activities he prohibits are thus clearly related and overlap to a degree, yet at the same time they retain their distinctness.[12]

Furthermore, if Paul wanted to say “I do not permit a woman to teach with authority over a man…” he certainly had the vocabulary to do so, as he demonstrates in verse 11—“Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness” (1 Tim. 2:11), but he didn’t write that in verse 12.

Which raises another issue with the alternate view on our study committee; namely, that there are degrees or types of teaching delineated in didaskein which Paul expected Timothy to deduce apart from the text of his letter. Kostenberger writes, “Conversely, the sort of teaching Paul has in mind always involves this exercise of authority.”[13]

While our counterparts on the study committee write that nearly all the uses of didaskein by Paul and Luke reference “authoritative” teaching, they also suggest that there is a sort of teaching in the gathered church that does not involve this authority, which women are permitted to practice over men. They seem to suggest that it’s only the exhortation of sacred doctrine, or something of the like, that Paul prohibits in 1 Timothy 2:12.

The removal or ignoring of oude permits them to suggest that Paul was only prohibiting women from being a teacher of sacred doctrine in the presence of men. But if the Word of God is authoritative, as we confess in BFC Article of Faith Article 1—“[The Holy Scriptures] are the supreme and final authority of faith and conduct,” then there is no scriptural, doctrinal teaching in the church that is not authoritative. It is not appropriate, therefore, for an elder to “delegate” his authority to a woman for the purpose of her teaching over men in the gathered church, because the authority is in the Word, and it is in part that authority a woman is prohibited from exercising over a man.

This assertion has led to the question of whether or not non-elder men are allowed to teach with authority. Both sub-committees seem to agree that the New Testament does not prohibit non-elder men from teaching men in the church, but the question arises about the authority of the teaching. And again, because they eliminate or obscure oude and thus qualify teaching with authority, making the text about elder vs. non-elder, they suggest even non-elder men are not permitted to teach with authority in the church. We disagree. 1 Timothy 2:12 does not prohibit non-elder men from teaching authoritatively in the church.

In support of women teaching men, other texts in the New Testament are cited in an attempt to validate the idea that the New Testament church commonly allowed the very thing Paul prohibits in 1 Timothy 2:12. By citing Colossians 3:16 (“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God”), they assert that Paul clearly allowed women to teach men in the gathered church. But that simply neglects the intended meaning of the text. It is simply not reasonable or prudent to think that Paul was intentionally permitting women to teach men in the gathered church in that text, nor even in 1 Corinthians 11:5, which was also cited. In that text, while Paul obviously mentions women prophesying, the context shows that he very clearly intends to delineate spiritual and gender roles in the home and in the church. The primary intention of the text must be considered in these arguments, and the primary intention of 1 Timothy 2:12 is undeniably clear and is not jeopardized by these other texts.

The proximity of the prohibition to the defining of eldership in chapter 3 also leads many to conclude that the prohibition is only in regard to the office or position of elder, so that the issue is between elders and non-elders. But Paul uses no vocabulary to indicate that is the case. The prohibition in chapter two is between men and women, as verses 13-15 prove.

The deconstruction of 1 Timothy 2:12 also includes the misinterpretation of authentein which is addressed elsewhere in our paper, but for the scope of this section, it’s useful to note the alternative position’s use of that word to qualify “teaching” suggests that the rarity of its usage really leaves no other options. Thus, our subcommittee has been repeatedly challenged to articulate ways, beyond teaching, that 1 Timothy 2:12 might prohibit a woman from exercising authority over a man. Relying again on Kostenberger as noted above, there are an abundance of ways authority is exercised in the church apart from teaching. It is our position that this text prohibits the hiring of a woman to a church staff position which assumes the exercise of authority that is binding upon the entire church. Yet many churches do just that and justify it by not calling her an elder. But again, the contrast of the text is not between elders and non-elders, but between women and men.

The overall tenor and tone of the New Testament on this issue is very clear. This is not a one-text doctrine. Thus, this debate is about more than gender roles; it’s about our view of Holy Scripture—its clarity, its inerrancy, its sufficiency, and its authority. Dozens of denominations have forsaken Scripture completely, and many of them began doing so with this very doctrine. The evangelical landscape at present is being painted by this doctrine, so it is indeed a primary doctrine, and one of first importance, because it reflects what we believe about, and how we submit to the Bible. Our faith calls us to be different from the world, set apart, and distinct; and yet it seems we’re allowing the world to dictate our understanding of Scripture, and our practice in the church. We must not follow those who fell into apostasy on this doctrine; we must fear God more than we fear man, and we must hold fast to the truth of His Word, believing our heavenly reward depends upon it.

[1] John Leith, Crisis in the Church (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997), 23.

[2] Carrie Sandom, Different by Design: God’s Blueprint for Men and Women, 2012; Claire Smith, God’s Good Design: What the Bible Really Says About Men and Women, 2012. Margaret Kostenberger, Jesus and the Feminists: Who Do They Say That He Is?, 2008. A 2007 report in The Christian Century included an analysis of a study completed by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. This study concluded that churches who reported growth between 2000 and 2005 exhibited certain common attributes. Among them were robust male participation. “Among congregations in which at least three out of five regular participants were men, 59 percent reported growth. But among churches where no more than two in every five regular participants were men, only 21 percent said they had experienced growth.”

[3] Pamela D.H. Cochran, Evangelical Feminism: A History (New York: NYU Press, 2005), 193-94.

[4] Douglas Moo, “What Does It Mean Not to Teach or Have Authority Over Men?” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, ed. by John Piper and Wayne Grudem (Wheaton: Crossway, 1991), 182.

[5]That Paul is here presenting standard guidance for the church and not just a limited situation in dispute is supported by Paul’s use of the phrase “in every place.” This phrase indicates Paul’s intentions for churches everywhere. First Cor. 11:16 and 1 Cor. 14:33 provide similar universal application to the churches outside the direct recipients of his letter.

[6] Donald Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles in Tyndale NT Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 75.

[7] I prefer the term “quietness” to the ESV’s “quietly” because the Greek term heisuxia is a noun, not an adverb. 

[8] In his prohibition of women teaching men, Paul is prohibiting a positive activity within a certain context (Contra. any who would contend that Paul is merely prohibiting some form of abusive teaching). Andreas Kostenberger writes, “Even more significant than the use of didasko in the Gospels and Acts is Paul’s usage of didasko. Where he uses the term in an unqualified sense—that is, unaccompanied by qualifiers in the immediate context such as those denoting the content of someone’s teaching—he views the activity positively.” Andreas Kostenberger, “A Complex Sentence: The Syntax of 1 Timothy 2:12” in Women in the Church: An Interpretation & Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, ed. by Andreas J. Kostenberger and Thomas R. Schreiner (Wheaton: Crossway, 2016), 132.

[9] S. M. Baugh, “A Foreign World: Ephesus in the First Century,” in Women in the Church: An Interpretation & Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, ed. by Andreas J. Kostenberger and Thomas R. Schreiner (Wheaton: Crossway, 2016), 25-64.

[10] Al Wolters, “The Meaning of AUTHENTEO,” in Women in the Church: An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, ed. by Andreas Kostenberger and Thomas Schreiner. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2016.

[11] Kevin DeYoung, Men and Women in the Church: A Short, Biblical, Practical Introduction, Wheaton: Crossway, 2021, 75-87.

[12] Andreas Kostenberger, “A Complex Sentence: The Syntax of 1 Timothy 2:12” in Women in the Church: An Interpretation & Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, ed. by Andreas J. Kostenberger and Thomas R. Schreiner (Wheaton: Crossway, 2016), 149-50.

[13] Ibid, 150.

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