What Role Should
Women Play in Church?

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What role, if any, should married women play in the church? Are they allowed to discuss the Bible or should they remain totally silent?

Some believe that the role of all women, whether married or not, should be to not speak at all during services. Others feel that they should be able to ask questions but not allowed to make statements or comments. What is the truth of the matter? Perhaps the most important verses used to argue against the active role of women in church are found in 1Timothy.

"Let a woman (gune, Strong's #G1135) learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman (gune) to teach or to have authority over a man (aner, Strong's #G435), but to be in silence" (1Timothy 2:11 - 12).

This passage is usually interpreted to mean that all women, during church services, are to remain completely silent in the presence of men to show their complete spiritual subjection to God. They are not, as some believe, to play any active role in teaching anyone during church as this would "usurp" authority over men that are present.

There are several major, and false, assumptions made when interpreting 1Timothy 2:11 - 12 in regard to the church. The first is that the word "woman" means "all women" whether they are married or not. The second is that the word "man" means "all men" whether they are married or not. The third assumption is that the term "silence" means "absolutely mute."

The fact that Paul is referring to a marriage relationship between men and women, and not all females in general, is revealed in the Greek words he uses. When used with anthropos (man or mankind), gune may mean women in general.

However, in 1Timothy 2, the word for man is aner. Its use with gune means it is referring strictly to men who are married. A more accurate translation of 1Timothy 2:11 - 12 is, "Let a married woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a married woman to teach or to have authority over her husband, but to be in silence."

Paul is not discussing here the general relationship of all women (be they married or single) to all men (whether married or not), but the specific relationship of wives to their mates.

Paul states in verses 11 to 15 of 1Timothy 2 that the natural order God placed in marriage, with the husband as leader over his wife, should be maintained in regard to preaching the gospel. This is indicated by the Greek word hupotage translated as "submission" in 1Timothy 2. The word's literal meaning is "to place in proper order."

Paul is additionally making the point that a wife's desire to learn, whether in the family or gathered in Christian fellowship, should be done with respect to her husband's position as her leader (see 1Corinthians 11:3).

What does Paul mean then, when he commands that women should learn in silence? The Greek word translated "silence" is hesuchia and refers to tranquility of spirit or a state of being undisturbed.

The apostle is not requiring Christian women to remain absolutely silent but to speak with calmness and self-control. He is encouraging that wives speak up in church, ask questions, and so on but to do so in a manner that does not undermine their husband's authority over them.

Christian wives should not, in public or private, go beyond their ordained God-given marriage position and undermine their mate's position of the primary salvation teacher within the church or family. This, however, does not apply to women who are single, divorced or widowed.

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