I Timothy 2: 8-15, an Exegesis


     God as Creator knows what is best and has an incomparable understanding of design. God has assigned to man and to woman certain roles. Whether one is considering the domestic or spiritual, the role God enjoined on man and woman is recognitionally and functionally different. This is not to say that God or that man has or should deprecate either man or woman. In fact, there are many women who are presented on a high plateau in the Bible. Such women as Sarah, Rebekah, Hannah, Ruth, Esther, Elizabeth, Mary, Lydia, Lois, and Eunice, to name a few. In fact, the Bible even records women who served as prophetesses (cp. Miriam; Deborah; Huldah; and Anna, Ex. 15: 20, 21; Jud. 4: 4-10; 2 Kgs. 22: 14-20; Lk. 2: 36-38). These prophetesses were exceptional and were used of God to publicly teach and instruct people (see Lk. 2: 36-38, they had the gift of prophecy and were considered not inferior to their male counter-parts, the prophets, see I Cor. 11: 4-16). Other than the exception just mentioned, God has assigned the leadership role in matters religious to men and not to women.

     One of the fastest growing movements underway today is the Women's Movement. This impetus is attempting to change the role of women in religion and place them in pulpits and leadership roles. The church of Christ is also experiencing the effects of this effort. Some "Churches of Christ" have actively joined the Women's Movement. I was recently visiting the Web site belonging to the West Islip Church of Christ located in West Islip, New York, and I was amazed at what I found (the West Islip church belongs to a Web ring of similar churches of Christ that are promoting the Women's Movement). They list their ministers as Lance Pape and Katie Hays. When you click on the "Leadership" button, you read:

     "West Islip Church of Christ is lead by a group of gifted shepherds known collectively as the Council. The Council is currently composed of nine individuals: Don Bayer, Sue Bayer, David Fritz, Methel Bale, Hubert Gibbons, Julie Madsen, Barbara O'Conner, Donna White, and John White."

     The question this material will attempt to scripturally answer is, Are women authorized to serve as preachers and elders or shepherds (I Tim. 3: 1ff.)? If the answer is, "no," what then is the work and role of women? Key to an understanding of the role of woman in her relationship to man is a study of I Timothy 2: 8-15. The text reads as follows:

"8: I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. 9: In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 10: But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. 11: Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12: But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 13: For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14: And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 15: Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety" (I Tim. 2).

     Let us now examine both the main words found in I Timothy 2: 8-15 to determine exactly what is being taught and the setting in which it is being taught.

     Verse eight: "Men pray every where." The word translated "men" is the Greek aner. Aner is not used as a generic word for mankind, inclusive of women. W. E. Vine states regarding aner, "Is never used of the female sex" (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). Is Paul commanding that men only pray? Yes, but we must appreciate the circumstances. The circumstance of the "men only to pray" command involves the public worship where men and women have assembled together to worship God (vs. 8ff.). The men are to lead in the prayers, indicated by "lifting up holy hands" (an apparent custom in which the man leading the public prayer would lift up his hands to heaven as an indication of recognition and dependence on God to whom the prayer was directed).

     Verse nine: The woman in public worship does not have a leadership role, her role is that of attempting to not attract attention to herself. Her dress, therefore, is urgently important. Her dress is to be the result of a sense of shame, appropriate for the occasion, sober and well thought out, and lacking pretension that would divert attention from the solemn occasion of worship.

     Verse ten: In contrast to the secular and sensual emphasis on simple physical femininity that can be accented by dress, the female is to, "…professing godliness with good works."

     Verse eleven:   In this public worship scenario of I Timothy 2: 8-15 involving both men and women, the woman has a passive role, a position of student as opposed to teacher. The terms "silence" (hesuchia) and "subjection" (huphotage) indicate her posture. It will be appreciated that Paul does not use the Greek sigao (silence, to not utter a sound) as he used in I Corinthians 14: 34 because he is addressing a different nuance. In I Corinthians 14: 34 there was to be the utter lack of sound as opposed to any sound (questions) that was conducive to public confusion or disorder (see context of I Cor. 14: 34). In the setting of I Timothy 2: 8-12, "silence" (hesuchia) is used to connote the passive as opposed to active and student in contrast to teacher behavior of the female Christian in a circumstance of public worship involving man. As opposed to leader or the public teacher, her position is that of "subjection."

     Verse twelve: Verse twelve commences with the idea of contrast ("but to teach," didaskein de). Again, the contrast is with the "silence" and "subjection" of verse eleven. The circumstance of the negation must be continually realized (the circumstance of public worship, involving men and women). In other circumstances, Paul commanded certain women to teach, the older women are to be teachers of the younger women (Tit. 2: 3, 4). In the situation of women and men, Paul said "I do not permit a woman to teach" (ouk ephitrepho yunaiki de didaskein). She is not to assume the function of public instructor or preacher/teacher.

     Paul then states, "nor to usurp authority over the man...." The word of negation "nor" (oude) has been variously understood. Oude is sometimes said to be a disjunctive conjunction, "but not." However, Thayer points out regarding the use of oude in scripture, "...generally, however, its oppositive force being lost, it serves to continue a negation" (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, pg. 461). After all is said, the bottom line is does "nor" (oude) simply explain what "I suffer not a woman to teach" means or does it add to the injunction. Some argue that "nor" means that the woman can assume the posture of public teacher as long as she does it in the right way, not "usurp authority over the man." Others contend that "nor" does not serve appositionally but rather "nor" adds a related but additional negation. In some ways, it is hard to distinguish between these two positions. I say this because Titus 2: 15 indicates in the expression, "with all authority" (meta phases ephitages) that "authority" is residual in scriptural teaching and preaching. When the woman exercises the position of public teacher, she automatically assumes certain authority; hence, the expression, "usurp authority over the man" (authentein andros). One thing is certain, the expression, "But I suffer not a women to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man" in the milieu of I Timothy 2: 8-15 precludes the female from being a public religious teacher in the presence of men.

     Again, the opposite helps us to determine what, "But I suffer not a women to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man" means: "...but to be in silence" (einai en hesuchia). The woman cannot "be in silence" and assume the status of public teacher in a religious climate.

     Verses thirteen through fifteen: The reason for the prohibition restricting a woman from being a public teacher is stated in these verses. The reason is not cultural or dispensational, the reason goes back to Adam and Eve. First, there is the reason involving priority, "Adam was first formed, not Eve" (vs. 13). Second, Eve was deceived, not Adam (vs. 14). Instead of being a leader in the religious setting, the woman has the assignment of domesticity (vs. 15).

     While the text of I Timothy 2: 8-15 pertains to the public worship setting, the male in general is over the female (I Cor. 11: 3). Therefore, in conduct and circumstances, there should be behavior that is expressive of this God put in place order. A "meek and quiet spirit" compliments any woman (I Pet. 3: 4). We must also realize that worship to God is not limited to a "church building." Beloved, the Women's Movement that is attempting and succeeding in placing women in the pulpit and leadership roles in churches is anti-biblical, as seen in I Timothy 2: 8-15.   (To read a related article, click on "I Corinthians 14: 34, 35, An Exposition")  (To read an exchange on I Timothy 2: 9, click on "An Exchange on I Timothy 2: 9 and Situation Ethics")