“I Will Not Suffer a Woman to Teach”

I don’t know anything, so don’t take my word for it. Search the scriptures yourself. But these are my musings.

Sometimes (pretty often, honestly) I run across something in scripture that I don’t understand. I’m not saying it’s usually Paul’s writings but I think Paul assumes we have a lot more common sense than we actual do. OOPS I SAID IT.

Today, let’s look at 1 Timothy 2:8-15.

(King James Version)

I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.

But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.

But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

For Adam was first formed, then Eve.

And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.

Modern church: oh yeah this uhhhh this wassss because the CULTURE then didn’t believe in women teachers. Our culture is fine with it now (LOL) so it’s k.

Me: Oh, the culture then also liked stoning and/or otherwise hurting people who came in with ideas they didn’t like, so since our culture is swinging that way, that’ll be fine now too, right?

Like, what? Since when do we take our cues from culture? What happened to John 17:14–19? That’s a whole different rant though, I’ll try to stick with this one.

Off the cuff, phrases like “let women learn in silence” and “I suffer not a woman to teach” are REAL AWKWARD for women who have opinions, are well studied in scripture, and are good teachers.

But putting aside any personal feelings, there’s a scriptural disagreement. If women aren’t supposed to teach, why on Earth was Deborah, in the 12th century BC, in Judges, solving disagreements among the Israelites (probably mostly men)? Like, Deborah, babe, read 1 Timothy 2! You’re not allowed to do that! She did that for 40 years. YIKES. Also, bonus points, her name means “bee” so she was the ORIGINAL QUEEN BEE. (Edit: her husband’s name, Lapidoth, happens to mean torch, light, or “enlightened” which I think is PRETTY COOL.)

So, did women lose teaching powers in the New Testament?

Before we look at the Greek, let’s look at context. We start off chapter 2 talking about respecting and praying for those in authority or power, such as kings you really don’t like. “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; Who will have ALL men, and to come unto the knowledge of truth.” (Emphasis mine.) You didn’t think I’d manage to slip in an admonition about hating and making fun of leaders who God wants us to pray salvation for BUT I DID. BOOSH. (Self conviction, nailing it.)

So, respect, prayer. Then we get into verse 8-11 on conduct within worship. Then we get the bomb drop of women teaching in vs 12 but it’s part of this thought about Adam and Eve? And then making babies.

This is usually the point where I go, “Paul…what…what…is happening right now.” I will probably do a Google search and turn up pretty meh articles saying basically “IT’S SUPER CLEAR,” and I go on my way, still confused. But SOMETIMES I flip open The Complete Word Study and see if I can find some answers. If you don’t have a resource like this, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT. I mean, you can also use online resources (like BibleHub) but sometimes a book really does the trick.

If you’re a man and you don’t think women should teach, hopefully you didn’t learn anything above, but this quote is written by a man so YOU’RE GOOD:

(Page 688-690)


These verses indicate that women were full and active members in the early church (cf. 1 Cor. 11:4-5; Titus 2:1-10). From an examination of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, it is also clear that both wives and husbands could pray and prophesy in the worship service (see not on 1 Cor. 14:33-40). In all this discussion, Paul’s chief concern is that no woman would be of immoral character by having short hair or a shaven head, because in this manner she dishonors God, her husband’s character, and herself. Peter also had something to say concerning the witness of women and their conduct at home (1 Pet. 3:1-7). In marital relationships, a woman is not presented as having any fewer rights over her husband than he has over his his wife. The key to understanding what the Apostle Paul is teaching is that women should not try to appear or act like men. In addition to this, they should not attempt to usurp the position of their husbands in the home and in the church. God has appointed specific tasks for both women and for men. Childbearing is reserved for women, just as the role of a husband is set aside for men. Paul emphatically states that these were differences created by God Himself.

Furthermore, in Galatians 3:28, Paul made it clear that there are no distinctions between male and female in Christ. He indicates that there are differences between the sexes, but no distinctions of believers in Christ. Moreover, Paul explains that the general attitude of Christians should not be to flaunt one’s customs even if they are the proper ones. If the acceptable code of behavior indicates a definite distinction between the manner of dress of a man and a woman, adhere to that which will characterize one’s own sex. In addition to this, differentiation should exist between women and men by the method of hair grooming or style, and it is necessary to maintain that accepted distinction. Paul’s other concern is that a woman should not dress in a provocative manner, bringing the attention of men to herself. A Christian woman should be one man’s wife, and in like manner, a husband should have only one wife (1 Cor. 7:2).

In 1 Timothy chapter two, the Apostle Paul is concerned about women appearing modest in their clothing. In verse nine, the Greek word sóphrosuné ([4997] cf. v. 15) provides the clue for the interpretation of this difficult passage. This Greek word, translated “sobriety,” means “the voluntary limitation of one’s freedom of thought and behavior,” or “sober mindedness.” The truth is that in Christianity women became free and equal to their husbands. Nevertheless, there was always a danger that they might take this freedom beyond the limitations that God had placed when He appointed man as head over woman in the marital relationship. No two people or things can be exactly the same. The inherent differences in people and things must be recognized by a sōphrōn, or “sober minded” person. This is one who recognizes his abilities and his limitations, and is mindful of his behavior in certain given circumstances.

There are numerous references in the Scripture where women are recognized as friends and coworkers in the gospel (Rom. 16:1-4). Peter refers to women as “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Pet. 3:7). In one such instance, Paul does not differentiate between Priscilla and her husband Aquila, rather he refers to them both with the same word, sunergos (4904), meaning “fellow workers” (Rom. 16:3). He does not distinguish between the work each can do because one is male and the other female (cf. Rom 16:21; Phile. 1:24).

To function properly, everything needs a person in the position of leadership, especially a family. The marriage unit consists of two people that have two distinct personalities. These two require a “headship,” that being the man according to God’s creation and ordinance. In 1 Timothy 2:11, there are several key words that show how a wife should convey a proper relationship to her husband. The first of these terms is guné (1135) which, depending on the context, may indicate a woman in general or a wife. The close relationship of this word with the word andros (from  anér [435]) meaning “husband,” not simply “man,” requires that the word be translated “wife.” The subsequent term to consider is hésuchia (2271), translated “silence.” In the NT it occurs numerous times referring to tranquility or the state of being undisturbed. This should be the understanding in this verse. One must bear in mind here that during the era of time when Paul was writing, it was usually men who were the ones to receive an education. If this word meant “complete silence,” women would never have the opportunity to ask questions or increase her knowledge of the Scriptures. Simply speaking, the wife out to be displaying a tranquil spirit in her attempt to learn. The final word of key importance in understanding the “silence” mentioned in this verse is hupotagé (5292) meaning “to place in proper order,” translated “subjection.” Paul wanted to express the idea that in the wife’s desire to learn, she should respect her husband’s position over her in Christ (cf. 1 Cor 11:3).

The phrase in 1 Timothy 2:12, “But I suffer not a woman to teach…” should be understood as “But I suffer not a wife to teach.” The discussion continues drawing contrasts between the Greek words for wife and for husband. The usage of guné in this verse must be translated as “a wife” corresponding to the reference in verse eleven. However, andros (435) is translated as “man” in verse twelve. However, it is better rendered “husband” when usage of this Greek word occurs in relation to a discussion of wives. Furthermore, the word for “teach” in this verse is the Greek infinitive didaskein (1321). In this instance, it means “to teach continuously.” The situation refers to the home, an assembly, or anywhere the husband and wife may be interacting together. If this were the case, the position of the husband as the head would be undermined, and would not be in accordance with God’s ordained order in creation. A wife should place limitations on her speech. Paul does not want women to be lackluster or mute, but to be careful lest they go beyond the bounds of accepted propriety (see discussion on v. 9).

Moreover, the word translated “to usurp authority over” is the Greek word authentein (831). Essentially, a wife’s private or public life should be beyond reproach and never undermine the position that her husband has been given by God. Also, a wife should never encroach upon the role of her husband. In verse thirteen, Paul explains why this is so: “For Adam was first formed, then Eve.” This is not because the husband is better, more intelligent, or more worthy than she; rather, it is the order originally ordained by God, for her to respect. See not on Titus 2:1-5.


A few personal opinions:

  • It’s important to remember that two things Paul is trying to combat in the early church are: marital strife caused by a wife wanting to be the man (from role to appearance), and the temple prostitution culture coming in from the other religions at that time. I mean, it’s a bad combo when you have couples fighting tooth and nail and also people who are all “HEY SEXY LET’S DO IT, I’M ALL ABOUT FREE LOVE.”
  • Either in this book or another I read commentary about Paul advising women be silent because since they generally weren’t educated at this time, they would be asking their husbands to explain things during the teaching which was obviously really distracting to everyone. So Paul was trying to solve that very specific problem. (See 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.)
  • I find it hilarious that I’ve never heard this explanation before now, and that if this commentary is taken as a correct interpretation, it almost feels backwards of what we’ve done with the verse. Because let’s be real, when you take a woman who is an excellent teacher and tell her she can’t teach, if she’s married you better believe she’s “continuously teaching” her husband which is what Paul is trying to tell us not to do. OOPS. SORRY, DEVIN.
  • Looking back at Deborah in this light, I don’t see any conflict at all. Her husband clearly had gifts in other areas, and was fine with her exercising her gifts of teaching and leading while he got to focus on his gifts. I actually have a huge respect for them as a couple because I personally think it’s clear that they were following God’s model of marriage and yet not denying each other the use of their God-given gifts. I have a bad feeling there may be some husbands who end up in heaven answering for why they didn’t let their wives use their gift for teaching, and a few wives who will be asked why they harassed their husbands with continuous berated teaching instead of using their gift for the benefit of all.



4 thoughts on ““I Will Not Suffer a Woman to Teach”

    • When he’s talking at the beginning about the heresy in the Corinthian church is he referring to Gnosticism? I assume he mentions it in earlier sermons in the series?

      I’m really confused by the Baptist(?? Catholic?? I don’t know all the denominations that believe this) idea of “capital A apostles.” Does this doctrine have a name? How is it defined? Brett also uses that same phrase at UFC and it’s baffling. What are the scriptural sources for it?

      At 7:13 he says, “in his letter to an elder, Timothy, about eldership, 1 Timothy, Paul clearly states that a woman is not to usurp the authority of an elder in the local church,” but he doesn’t give a reference for the verse. Is he interpreting 1 Timothy 2:12 as being about elders and women?? It seems like he is, but he doesn’t explicitly say that or read those verses, so I’m a bit confused.


    • Haha. Yeah, I dunno, it’s a tough topic. I find it slightly suspicious this is the first time I’ve heard about that interpretation of the Greek, but it also seems to make sense in context to me. We’ll see if the Holy Spirit ends up correcting me in the future. I’m definitely not feeling convicted to up and start teaching men quite yet hahaha.


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