Is this understanding of the verses listed above in 1Timothy consistent with the meaning of other Scriptures? Is it possible that we are applying cultural customs and bias to the Scriptures? Can we prove what is the true meaning of these verses? What is the setting of the verses? Is it Sabbath fellowship only, or is it family fellowship as well? Is the command here applicable to all women and all men? What does the term "teach" mean? What does it mean for a woman to "usurp authority over the man" ? What does it mean to be silent "with all subjection" ? To whom is the woman to be in subjection, to her husband, or to all men? What is the real topic under discussion here?
Paul was writing to the young evangelist Timothy, who was serving the brethren at Ephesus at the time. The year was circa 66 A.D. The Jewish Wars with Rome had just begun. The subject under discussion in 1Timothy 2 is the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles (1Timothy 2:7). Paul therefore reminds Timothy that all Christians (men and women) should pray for kings and all that are in authority, to the end that the gospel might be preached in a setting of peace and tranquility.
"Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1Timothy 2:1-4).
Timothy was therefore to teach that Christian men to pray.
"I (Paul) desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting" (verse 8)
Praying, in other words, that this gospel would go to the Gentiles, in due time, in a proper atmosphere of peace and tranquility. Timothy was to teach Christian women to pray the same thing. Only instead of admonishing the women to pray without "wrath and doubting," the women were to pray another way.
"in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works." (1Timothy 2:9-10).
The word translated "modest" is the Greek kosmios and in this context carries the meaning of a Christian woman who is quiet and tranquil in her worship of God. It means a woman who fulfills the Christian duties which are incumbent upon her; a woman who is sensible, self-controlled and who voluntarily places limitations on her Christian freedom.
The word translated "propriety" is the Greek aidios and has the meaning of a modesty which has an innate moral repugnance to a dishonorable act; i.e., a reverence for the good as good. Aidios is used only here in 1Timothy 2:9 and in Hebrews 12:28. The word "moderation" in the Greek is sophrosune and has the meaning of soundness of mind, sanity or self-control. Thus it means placing voluntary limitations on one's spiritual freedom of thought and behavior.
Marriage and the Gospel
Sophrosune gives us an important clue to the context of Paul's statements in 1Timothy 2:11-12. The fact that Paul is indeed referring to the marriage relationship is revealed by the words "woman" and "man." When Paul stated, "Let a woman learn" he was actually commenting on the Christian role of the wife. "Woman" is translated from the Greek gune (wife), and "man" is translated from the Greek andros (husband). When used with anthropos (man or mankind), gune may mean women in general. But when used with andros, it can only mean "wife" and must be translated so. Paul is not discussing here the general relationship of women to men, but the specific relationship of wives to husbands.
The real question is what are the proper roles of the converted husband and the converted wife in relationship to preaching the gospel of Jesus. Paul addresses this question in verses 11-15 of 1Timothy 2. The context reveals Paul's answer: the natural order is not to be disturbed in the preaching of the gospel. This natural order, ordained by God, is the role of the husband as head of the wife. Thus Paul argues:
"For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control." (1Timothy 2:13-15).
The role of childbearing was biologically reserved for the wife from the very beginning. The role of fathering and leadership in the family was reserved for the husband from the very beginning. Paul argues that this is so for the sake of the children. Thus when husbands and wives are interacting at home, in an assembly, or anywhere else, the position of the husband as the natural head of the family should not be undermined! For, as Paul argues, this natural relationship is in accordance with God's ordained order in creation.
Does this mean that the wife must be mute in services, or in public in general, when her husband is present or when any man is present? Not at all! The Greek text does not support or warrant such a conclusion. In 1Timothy 2:11 Paul does not argue that wives are not to learn, but only that they should "learn (manthano) in silence, with all submission." Learn what? Be in submission to whom? In absolute silence? The word translated "learn" here is the Greek verb manthano and grammatically must answer to the Greek verb didasko, to teach. In the simple aorist tense, manthano means to learn anything. But in this context, manthano refers to the wife learning the facts of God's plan of salvation. This wonderful plan of salvation includes women in general and wives in particular! The phrase "Let a woman learn" in the Greek is in the present imperative. Thus Paul is commanding here that wives be continually and repeatedly taught the plan of salvation by their husbands!
What does Paul mean then, when he commands that this learning be done in "silence" and in "submission?" The Greek word translated "silence" is hesuchia and refers to tranquillity of spirit or a state of being undisturbed. Thus Paul is not requiring Christian wives to remain absolutely silent but to speak with calmness and self-control.
"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 [their] knowledge of the Scriptures. Simply speaking, the wife ought to be displaying a tranquil spirit in her attempt to learn" (Zodhiates, The Hebrew/Greek Key Study Bible, World Kein, p. 1497).
Paul is encouraging, indeed commanding, that wives speak up, ask questions, learn of God's plan of salvation, but that they do so in a manner that does not undermine the husband's position as head of the family.
The word "submission" must also be understood in this context. The Greek word is hupotage and simply means "to place in proper order." Hupotage refers to the natural order that God established between the husband and the wife. Paul simply shows here that in the wife's desire to learn, whether in the family or gathered in Christian fellowship, the proper order requires that she always respect her husband's position as her leader (cf. 1Corinthians 11:3). As there is complete equality of husband and wife in Christ (Galatians 3:28), Paul is not saying that the wife is inferior to her husband. This is not a matter of superiority and inferiority, as viewed by many today; it is a matter of respecting the God-ordained order in family relationships. Both husband and wife have equal claim and authority over each other (1Corinthians 7:3-5). Nevertheless, God Himself has ordained that when a man and a woman voluntarily enter into a marriage relationship, the husband is to be the leader (Ephesians 5.22-24), and this role is to be upheld, respected and nurtured for the sake of the children and for the very salvation of the wife (1Timothy 2:13-15).
Is it Wrong for a Woman to Teach a Man?
The question still remains, what did Paul mean when he commanded,
"And I do not permit a woman (wife) to teach (the plan of salvation to her husband) or to have authority over a man (husband), but to be in silence (maintain a tranquil spirit)." (1Timothy 2:12)
It is clear that Paul never intended that a wife remain mute in her relationship with her husband! What kind of marriage would it be if the wife could never speak in her husband's presence? The proper understanding here is contained in the phrases "to teach" and "to have authority." The word translated "to teach" is the Greek infinitive didaskein and means in this context "to teach [the plan of salvation; the gospel is the focus of Paul's argument here] continually." The phrase "to have authority" (over the husband) is the Greek aude authentein, which literally means to act of oneself, or to dominate. This Scriptural passage makes it clear that a Christian wife should never, in her public or private life, go beyond her God-given position in the marriage and undermine the God-given position of her husband by being the predominant teacher of salvation in the family or church. This, however, does not apply to women who are single.
Saved in childbearing
The apostle Peter wrote that some of Paul's words are "hard to be understood." In his first epistle to Timothy, Paul makes a statement that has been widely misunderstood and misrepresented by ministers and teachers, and has consequently brought needless anxiety to many Christian women.
"Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control." (1Timothy 2:15).
In this verse, Paul is not speaking of Christian women being saved by giving birth to children and fulfilling the role of motherhood, as many have been taught. The words "in childbearing" are a mistranslation of the Greek text. A correct translation would read "through the childbearing." These words are referring to a specific birth by which believing women are saved, as well as men.
Paul is speaking of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Seed of Genesis 3:15. The promise of His birth was first given when Adam and Eve sinned against God and came under the penalty of death. It is through the birth of Jesus Christ, the promised Savior, that all mankind can be saved from the penalty of sin, which is eternal death.
The meaning of 1Timothy 2:15 becomes clear when we read the verse in its context: Paul is declaring that redemption and salvation are freely available to believing women through the birth of Jesus Christ in the flesh. As the Passover Lamb of God, He shed His blood to free all men and women from the condemnation of sin. Nothing we can do in this life could ever earn this redemption. To teach that believing women must bear children in order to obtain God's gift of salvation is contrary to all that is revealed in Scripture. While little ones are a blessing to a home, and rearing them can teach many lessons about patience and love, the bearing of children should not be viewed as essential for the salvation of Christian women.
"For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived (he sinned knowingly), but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression (she was misled into sin). Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control." (1Timothy 2:13-15).
An example of a female minister
"I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant (Greek: diakonos) of the church in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also." (Romans 16:1-2)
Phoebe was a diakonos (Strong's Concordance #1249). This word is translated in the New Testament scriptures as "servant" (Matthew 23:11; Mark 9:35; John 2:5), "minister" (Matthew 20:26; 2 Corinthians 6:4; Ephesians 3:7), and "deacon" (Philippians 1:1; 1Timothy 3:8, 12). Does that mean she held the office of "deaconess?" Make no mistake, Phoebe was a diakonos -- a minister! Notice a few different translations of this verse:
"I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me" (verses 1-2, NIV).
"I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae" (verse 1, NRSV). "
"And I commend you to Phebe our sister -- being a ministrant of the assembly that is in Cenchrea" (Young's Literal Translation).
Was Phoebe a church pastor? Probably not. She was a ministrant or servant, one who was actually SERVING the needs of others. When men take to themselves the title of "minister," only to become the man in charge and boss people around, that man is NOT a minister -- he is ruling over the faith of others.
Does this mean that there are female ministers in the Bible? Yes, it does. Not pastors, not elders, not bosses, but true servants of God! Are they only meek and weak servants, destined only to wash dishes? Remember Paul's instructions in one instance:
"And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life." (Philippians 4:3).
Those women, whoever they were and whatever they did, were fighters. They contended, or fought, at Paul's side in proclaiming the Good News. Should our women today do any less? Yes, every congregation ought to be FILLED with servants -- ministers -- men, women, and children.
"for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry (Greek: diakonia), for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:12-13)!