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Women Preachers: Forbidden in the Bible?


No topic is probably more controversial today than the issue of women in ministry, women preachers, or women pastors and bishops. Therefore, after doing some level of extensive research on the topic of women in ministry, and finding out that the main passages used to deny women ministry opportunities within the Church have been grossly misinterpreted and misunderstood, I felt that it was best to begin this section by posting my graduate paper on the topic for your consideration.

The original title of the paper was "Do 1 Corinthians 14:34,35 and 1 Timothy 2:11,12
Prohibit Women from Preaching/Teaching in Church Ministry?"

Does the Bible Really Forbid Women Preachers?

A Closer Look at 1 Corinthians 14:34,35 and 1 Timothy 2:11,12


The question of whether or not women in general are prohibited from preaching and/or teaching according to 1 Corinthians 14:34,35 and 1 Timothy 2:11,12 and other passages of Scripture is one that I had not seriously considered until recently.

To some in the Christian church, especially male clergy, it would seem that the answer is quite obvious: they are indeed prohibited by these passages from preaching and teaching. This is generally known as the complementarian or “historic” view. However, to others in the church, especially those who ordain women into official ministry preaching positions, the answer seems either unclear or so questionable that this “prohibition” is routinely ignored. This is known as the egalitarian view.

I can certainly agree that on the surface, 1 Corinthians 14:34,35 and 1 Timothy 2:11,12 do seem to teach that women are prohibited from teaching and preaching. The respective passages read as follows:


Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.

Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.
And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.

Certainly it seems that these passages enjoin women to “keep silent in the churches” and “learn in silence.” Paul even goes on to argue that he does not “permit a woman to teach” or to have authority over a man. Who could deny the clarity of these plain words?

One of the things I have learned over the years is that “a text without a context is a pretext.” It is a basic hermeneutical principle that, to be properly interpreted, passages must be considered in their immediate context, in their historical context, and in the context of the entirety of Scripture. So when I began looking more deeply into this issue just prior to entering seminary, I was intrigued by the possibility the meaning of these passages was not as obvious as it seemed.


The Greek of 1 Corinthians 14:34, 35 and Dr. Spiros Zodhiates

Years ago I picked up a copy of the Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible with notes by Dr. Spiros Zodhiates. Dr. Zodhiates is a native Greek and his work is very impressive. It was his notes which first introduced me to the possibility that perhaps many people have been misreading and misinterpreting 1 Corinthians 14:34,35. In his notes on this passage, he remarked:


Under no circumstances does the injunction of Paul in 1 Cor. 14:34 indicate that women should not utter a word at any time during the church service…Furthermore, the word gunaikes (1135 in v. 34) should not be translated “women” in its generic sense, but as “wives.” It is wives who should submit (hupotassomai, 5293) to their own husbands (andras, 435, v. 35). The whole argument is not the subjection of women to men in general, but of wives to their own husbands in the family unit as ordained by God.2


Reading this caused me to pause and think. I had not read this argument before. In checking the Greek terms mentioned by Dr. Zodhiates, I found that there was some validity to his points. Indeed, in Ephesians 5:22, where we find the admonition “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord,” the Greek words translated as “wives” and “husbands” are the same as the words normally translated as “women” and “husbands” in 1 Corinthians 14:34,35. So the question naturally follows as to why we have the same Greek word translated one way (“wives” in Ephesians 5:22), but translated a different way (generically “women”) in 1 Corinthians 14:34. This curious situation led me to look more deeply into the passages people use to prohibit women from preaching and teaching.


The Greek of 1 Timothy 2:11,12 and Dr. Zodhiates

After looking into the Greek of 1 Corinthians 14:34 and finding that it may have been mistranslated, I then decided to look into the Greek of 1 Timothy 2:11,12. Again, Dr. Zodhiates made this interesting point:


Observe 1 Tim. 2:11. It does not say women but a woman, and better still, a wife. The word in Greek is gune (1135), which indicates either a woman generically speaking or a wife, depending on the context. In this instance, since it stands in apposition to the word andros (the genitive singular of aner here meaning only “husband” and not “man” generically, 435), it must be translated as “a wife.” It is because of the mistranslations of these passages that the Christian world has had so much difficulty in understanding the proper position of a woman in the Christian Church…Verse 12 is again poorly translated in the K.J.V. It should not be “But I suffer not a woman to teach,” but “I suffer not a wife….”3


Here again, it seems that an important passage used for the argument to prohibit women from preaching and teaching in Christian ministry has been mistranslated. Could it be that for centuries the Church has misused these passages to prohibit women from fully participating in Church ministry because of slight mistranslations? This is how my personal journey began, as I sought to find out the truth behind the proper interpretation of these passages.


Complementarianism Past to Present

John Calvin


Those who have espoused the pro-prohibition or complementarian (“historic”) view of these passages are many, and they include some of the most respected and revered scholars and thinkers of the Christian church. One of these was the great and notable John Calvin. In his commentary on 1 Corinthians 14:34, 35 he explained:

It appears that the Church of the Corinthians was infected with this fault too, that the talkativeness of women was allowed a place in the sacred assembly…Hence he forbids them to speak in public, either for the purpose of teaching or of prophesying…Paul’s reasoning, however, is simple – that authority to teach is not suitable to the station that a woman occupies, because, if she teaches, she presides over all the men, while it becomes her to be under subjection.4


What is interesting to note about Calvin is that despite his conviction that women appear to be forbidden to “speak in public,” he did have the wisdom to recognize that, “…for a necessity may occur of such a nature as to require that a woman should speak in public; but Paul has merely in view what is becoming in a duly regulated assembly.”5

Yet there does not seem to be an equal recognition that perhaps even in a “duly regulated assembly,” a necessity might occur that may also require a woman to speak in public there as well.

Regarding the interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:11,12, Calvin again argues for the prohibition of women teaching and holding teaching office:

And first he bids them to learn quietly; for quietness means silence, that they may not take upon them to speak in public. This he immediately explains more clearly, by forbidding them to teach…Not that he takes from them the charge of instructing their family, but only excludes them from the office of teaching, which God has committed to men only.6


Calvin goes on to address the immediate objection that some would raise. What about the women in the Bible who did lead and instruct in public, such as Deborah in Judges 4:4? His argument amounts to the rational point that exceptions to the rule do not invalidate that there is a rule. In his own words, “Extraordinary acts done by God do not overturn the ordinary rules of government.”7


Matthew Henry

From Calvin we can move to the works of Matthew Henry. In his one volume commentary we find his take on 1 Corinthians 14:34,35 and 1 Timothy 2:11,12, respectively:

Here the apostle, 1. Enjoins silence on their women in public assemblies, and to such a degree that they must not ask questions for their own information in the church, but ask their husbands at home…They are not permitted to speak (v. 34) in the church, neither in praying nor prophesying… And, indeed, for a woman to prophesy in this sense were to teach, which does not so well befit her state of subjection. A teacher of others has in that respect a superiority over them, which is not allowed the woman over the man, nor must she therefore be allowed to teach in a congregation: I suffer them not to teach. The woman was made subject to the man, and she should keep her station and be content with it. For this reason women must be silent in the churches, not set up for teachers; for this is setting up for superiority over the man.

5. According to Paul, women must be learners, and are not allowed to be public teachers in the church; for teaching is an office of authority, and the woman must not usurp authority over the man, but is to be in silence.9

Here we see similar interpretations from learned men over the centuries.

Modern Commentators

As we move closer to the twentieth century, we find an interesting twist on the interpretation of these important verses in The Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary on the Bible:

He now presupposes that public discussions during the services are the ordinary practice at Corinth, and he counsels that women keep silence at such times. Let them ask their husbands at home. Doubtless Paul does not mean to deny to women all opportunities for speaking under the impulses of inspiration (cf. 11:5, 13) or to imply that any speech by women in the church is shameful.


In addressing the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 14:34, 35, the author of this article seems to break slightly with previous tradition, electing not to see this passage as a complete denial of women to speak. But when addressing the interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:11, 12, the author of this article in the same work seems to side entirely with the traditional view by saying, “They are to be submissive and never to exert authority over men; they must be silent…”11

As we move into the 1990s, Craig S. Keener in The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament attempts to provide more historical and immediate context to his apparent prohibition views. For 1 Corinthians 14:34,35 he points out:


The issue here is thus their weakness in Scripture, not their gender…He wants them to stop interrupting the teaching period of the church service, however, because until they know more, they are distracting everyone and disrupting church order.12


Keener goes even further in his analysis of 1 Timothy 2:11, 12, emphasizing various problems in the Ephesian churches, including issues relating to the lack of educational training of women in the ancient world:

Given women’s lack of training in the Scriptures…the heresy spreading in the Ephesian churches through ignorant teachers (1:4-7), and the false teachers exploitation of these women’s lack of knowledge to spread their errors (5:13; 2 Tim. 3:6), Paul’s prohibition here makes good sense.

So it seems that Keener sees the prohibition as having a basis in the historical situation of the time and even suggests, without immediate contextual warrant, that the situation “might be different after the women had been instructed.”14

Keener then goes on to assert, again without specific immediate contextual warrant, that:

Paul argues for women’s subordination in pastoral roles on the basis of the order of creation, the same way he argued for women wearing head coverings (1 Cor. 11:7-12).


It is unclear where Keener gets the words “pastoral roles” from, since they are not explicit within the text or context of the passage in question. Surely pastors are not the only people who teach in public settings of the church.

But one can appreciate the overall attempt here by Keener to evaluate the text in light of the book’s overall theme and the historical factors that may have contributed to Paul’s message and the ultimate meaning expressed in these texts. Although Keener apparently is not a complementarian, he does seem to accept to some degree that these passages are prohibitive, though not absolutely, as we will see later.


Additional Modern Sources of Complementarian Thought

From various commentaries on the issue spanning a significant timeframe, we move to other sources of information. On the subject of our primary passages, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary says 1 Corinthians 14:34, 35 warns women not to ask questions at church but to ask their husbands at home.16 With regard to 1 Timothy 2:11, 12, we read this:


1 Tim. 2:11-15 also wants women to hold their questions and to learn in silence, but here the author silences them completely. They must neither teach nor usurp the authority properly due, in the writer’s eyes, only to men; in his view women are by nature easy marks for the devil and thus liable to fall into heresy more readily than men.17

While it is doubtless that many women would disagree with that last comment about them being “by nature” liable to fall into heresy more readily than men, this source clearly #echoes the sentiments of all the prior commentaries on these passages. What is interesting to note is that none of them addressed the issue of the possible mistranslation of the Greek words usually translated as “women” in 1 Corinthians 14 and as “a woman” and “a man” in 1 Timothy 2. The fact that they could be more specific to the husband/wife relationship within the context of church polity seems to have been overlooked so far.

While the majority of Southern Baptists have gone on record as arguing that, “…biblical passages such as 1 Timothy 2:12 (‘I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent’ NRSV) clearly limit the pastoral office to men alone,”18 others of the same view have dedicated entire books to the exposition and exegesis of 1 Timothy 2:9-15. In the book Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, Dr. Thomas R. Schreiner makes a very good case for the “historic” position and essentially argues that, “Two things are forbidden for a woman: teaching and exercising authority over a man.”19 In the Epilogue the authors conclude:

We have not investigated in detail how the meaning of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 should be applied in today’s world. At a minimum, our understanding of the text would prohibit women from functioning as teaching pastors or teaching elders/overseers of churches.


The question that comes to mind after reading this is, “If Paul wanted us to understand that women are not to be “teaching pastors or teaching elders/overseers of churches,” then why didn’t he simply say “Women cannot hold teaching pastor or elder/overseer offices in the churches”? This could have saved us a great deal of time and energy debating what appear to be ambiguous words in 1 Timothy 2:9-15.

Surely Paul could have used more overt words than “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” And of course there is the issue of the Scriptural fact that women in the past, and even in Paul’s day, did indeed teach and have authority over or with men (e.g., the prophetess Deborah in Judges 4, Aquila and Pricilla in Acts 18:26). Paul certainly knew of Deborah and others, so it seems strange that he should contradict prior revelation. The main point here is that there might be a level of eisegesis (reading into the text) going on when interpreters come to conclusions that are not clearly stated in the text.


The Egalitarian/Anti-Prohibition Argument

Against these complimentarian views, there are those who argue that 1 Corinthians 14:34,35 and 1 Timothy 2:11,12 do not prohibit women from teaching in church ministry. We begin now with an investigation of their views, followed by an analysis of the pertinent arguments from both sides and a conclusion.

Martin Luther

According to Gordon P. Hugenberger, adjunct professor of Old Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, the idea that 1 Timothy 2:11,12 had a marital (husband/wife) application is not a new idea that only emerged as a result of the “women’s liberation” movement of modern times. He pointed out that even prior to John Calvin, the great reformer Martin Luther recognized this application:

Already Luther in his exposition of 1 Tim 2:11-12 urged that what Paul was concerned to prohibit was a wife teaching or having authority over her husband. Since the time of Luther, a similar exegesis of this text has been offered, according to J.E. Huther, both by the sixteenth-century Dutch exegete Gulielmus Estius and the seventeenth-century German theologian Abraham Calovius, among others.

In a footnote, Hugenberger does qualify this statement by mentioning the fact that Luther also interpreted this passage in terms of public ministry and assembly. The key here, however, is the fact that Luther saw this as applicable to a wife not teaching or having authority over her husband, not a woman being prohibited from teaching or having authority over a man in general. A secondary key is seeing the fact that this idea has ancient roots and did not begin with anything remotely related to modern women’s liberation ideology, thus quieting claims that the reinterpreting of passages like 1 Timothy 2:11,12 is due to a modern twisting of Scripture against the historic view.


C. B. Williams

The New Testament translator, C. B. Williams, in his 1937 translation supports the egalitarian view that 1 Timothy 2:11,12 should apply to a marital relationship. Gordon P. Hugenberger, after pointing out the various writers and commentators who supported the marital relationship view,22 relates this about C. B. Williams’ version:

Reflecting this stream of scholarly opinion the once-popular version of C.B. Williams, for example, renders 1 Timothy 2:11-12: “A married woman must learn in quiet and perfect submission. I do not permit a married woman to practice teaching or domineering over a husband. She must keep quiet.”


Hugenberger goes on to mention commentator C.K. Barrett and his suggestion that “not domineer over her husband” may be a better translation for 1 Timothy 2:12 than the translation used in his commentary. Hugenberger also notes how author M. Griffiths sees the complex gender issues of this passage:

Griffiths suggests that the terms rendered "man"/"men" and "woman"/"women" in the RSV, namely forms of aner and gyne can as easily be rendered “husband”/husbands” and "wife"/"wives" throughout the verses—renderings entirely suited to the present passage.


Early Commentaries

Many early commentaries confirm the fact that a good linguistic and contextual case can be made for the argument that 1 Cor. 14:34,35 and 1 Tim. 2:11,12 address the husband/wife relationship, not men and women in general. In his Commentaries on the New Testament, Charles R. Erdman made these interesting observations about 1 Cor. 14:34,35:


Married women were not to exercise in public this gift of prophesy…He here argues from the same ground, namely, the headship of the husband, and the dependence of the wife…It would be improper for married women to take the place of their husbands in the prophetic office of the church.25

Here Erdman is clear that the emphasis is on married women and how they should relate to their husbands in a public church setting. According to him, married women are not to exercise the gift of prophesy in public or “take the place of” their husbands in the prophetic “office.” The problem here is that there does not seem to be an “office” emphasis in the text itself.

Even in the immediate context, prior to verses 34 and 35, Paul clearly states, “…whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue…For you all can prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged” (vv. 26, 31, emphasis added). This inclusive language seems to preclude the idea that in verses 34, 35 we all of a sudden have a unilateral ban on women participating in public services. The emphasis in the chapter seems to be on order as opposed to chaos, not silence as opposed to speaking in an “office” capacity (vv. 33, 40). On 1 Timothy 2:11, 12, Erdman again corroborates the point that Paul may be making reference to the husband/wife relationship:

The reference here is probably to “wives” in contrast to “husbands” and specifically to their conduct in public worship. Paul elsewhere indicates how helpful women may be as teachers, particularly in guiding the young. II Tim. 3:14; Titus 2:3…He here is urging women to be careful neither to interrupt the worship nor to assume the place of public official teachers in the Christian Church.

Another early commentary, A New Commentary on Holy Scripture including the Apocrypha, bears witness to the possibility that our primary passages may have limited application to the marriage relationship. On 1 Corinthians 14:34,35 we read:

A particular injunction is given. In the Church-assemblies women must be silent. It was not for them to take the lead. The Law (Gen 3:16) asserted the principle of their subjection. At home they could refer questions to their husbands, and so not offend against the canons of good behaviour.

This commentary admits two separate and almost contradictory things about this passage. First, it argues that “women” (plural and general) must be silent and not “take the lead.” Second, it then goes on to recognize the fact that these women, who were presumably married, should ask questions of their husbands at home. Wives are the only kind of “women” who can ask their husbands at home. Single women, by definition, cannot do this. While there is no “take the lead” in this context, which begs the question where the author got those words, there is a reference to “the law” that seems ambiguous. The commentary author references Genesis 3:16, but this reference is by no means clearly alluded to. The egalitarian scholar, Linda L. Belleville, elaborates on this when she pointed out:

All too often it is simply assumed Paul is commanding women to submit to their husbands in keeping with the so-called “law” of Genesis 3:16—“and [your husband] will rule over you.” Yet this is a most improbable (if not impossible) interpretation. For one thing, neither Genesis 3:16 nor any other OT text commands women to submit to their husbands. Would Paul take an OT text (Gen. 3:16) that is descriptive of a post-fall, dysfunctional marital relationship and cite it as prescriptive for the husband-wife Christian relationship? He does not do so elsewhere; why would he do so here? In fact, when the topic of marital relations surfaces in Paul, he cites Genesis 2:24 as prescriptive (Eph. 5:31-32)—and not 3:16.

Although Belleville makes a good point here, part of the solution she comes up with leaves much to be desired. She offered the speculative idea that Paul was speaking about some vague Roman law instead of the Mosaic Law.
29 While many scholars today still debate exactly what “law” Paul was referring to, it seems reasonable to presume that he was speaking in the context of the Mosaic Law in keeping with his known pattern in his other writings.

With regard to 1 Timothy 2:11,12, the aforementioned commentary makes an even more precise point about the possible husband/wife relationship in the text:


The point is that in the Church teaching is an exercise of authority, and for a woman to exercise authority over a man is to reverse the divine order of the family. Possibly “the man” is here her husband. The true subordination of women to men is in the family, not in the State or the Church. It is not that men in the mass are to command women in the mass, but that the man is to bear rule in his own house.30

Here we find a bold affirmation, from an early source prior to modern “women’s liberation” ideology, that this passage addresses husband/wife subordination, not “mass” subjugation of all women to all men in general. If this passage can be understood to limit the prohibition to married women in their relationships to their husbands, it seems that such a prohibitive injunction would make sense in light of the whole of Scripture (Judges 4; Ephesians 4:22-24; 1 Peter 3:1). A more detailed analysis of this point will be saved for the Analysis and Conclusion section below.


Modern Sources of Egalitarian Thought

In the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, four major interpretations of 1 Timothy 2:11,12 are given. First, there are those who simply deny the Pauline authorship of the text. Second, some people argue that Paul’s injunction reflected his rabbinic upbringing and cultural bias. Third is the argument that passages like 1 Cor. 14:34, 35 and 1 Tim. 2:11,12 “record culturally relative applications” and may not be uncritically applied to modern church situations. The fourth and final approach contests the exegesis of these apparently prohibitive passages.31

Since the first and second interpretations essentially deny the divine origin and authority of Scripture, these will not be taken into serious consideration. While the third approach may have some merit, it too suffers from a general denial of the God-breathed nature of Scripture given by the Holy Spirit to be applied to Christian lives across cultural and time barriers. Therefore only the fourth approach from this source will be given serious consideration.

Two very interesting and substantive points were made in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia regarding our primary passage, 1 Timothy 2:11-12:


Favoring this suggestion, it may be noted that elsewhere in Paul’s writings aner occurs fifty times and gyne occurs fifty-four times in close proximity within eleven distinct contexts, and in each case these terms bear the meanings “husband” and “wife” rather than “man” and “woman”…Indeed it may be argued that, if Paul had intended to speak about man in relation to woman in 1 Tim. 2, rather than about husband in relation to wife, he would have used anthropos, “man,” rather than aner, in contrast to gyne, as he did in 1 Cor. 7:1. Alternatively, Paul could have used the very terms that most stress gender, arsen, “man,” in contrast to thelys, “woman,” as he did in Rom. 1:26f.32

This would seem to be one of the most powerful and significant arguments against the idea that Paul in 1 Timothy 2 had men and women in general in mind. Apparently, Paul could have specified “male” and “female” in the most general terms as he had done before in Romans 1:26. The fact that he chose to use words that are mainly translated as “husband” and “wife” when in close contextual range of each other makes a more compelling case for the argument that both 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2 may have a more limited application than many would like to admit.


L.E. Maxwell and Ruth C. Dearing

Regarding the exegesis of 1 Corinthians 14:34,35, we find that L.E. Maxwell and Ruth C. Dearing in Women in Ministry make some interesting observations. Two of the most important ones concern the disciplinary nature of the prohibition and the conditional nature of the “keep silent” commands in context. First, they observe that this passage does not prohibit women from teaching or preaching, but instead enjoins order in a form of discipline by the apostle:


Why such an exhortation? Because the women were disturbing the church service by asking questions of their husbands during the preaching…Hence their questions produced an undertone of noise which was confusing to an audience. No wonder Paul corrected them. So we see that the Apostle is not dealing with the subject of women preaching, but with discipline. He is simply correcting disorder.33


This analysis seems to hold contextual weight, especially since Paul does tell others (some of whom were male) to “keep silent” so that order is preserved (vv. 28, 30-33), which brings us to their second important observation about the conditional nature of the “keep silent” commands:


The injunction to “silence” occurs three times in 1 Corinthians 14—twice to men and once to women. In each case the silence commanded is manifestly conditional rather than absolute and for all time. To man Paul says, “let him keep silence in the church” (v. 28), referring to a man speaking in tongues when there is no interpreter…Paul is not meaning that these men remain forever silent, but that they simply refrain from any speaking that causes confusion.34


Along with these important points on 1 Corinthian 14:34,35, Maxwell and Dearing seem to agree with previous sources that argue for a more limited husband/wife application to the meaning of 1 Timothy 2:11,12, as they quote George Williams:


A married woman (v. 12) was not to teach or to claim authority over her husband but to be in subordination. Many misunderstand this command; they divorce it from its context, which is the family, and they carry it into the prayer-meeting [dealt with in vv. 1-10], and argue that a woman is forbidden to preach or pray—she is not to teach men—not even her dying husband how to escape from the wrath to come! This is a popular error. What God says here is that a wife is not to govern her husband.35

George and Dora Winston

As we move on to other sources of egalitarian thought, we find that George and Dora Winston, in their book Recovering Biblical Ministry by Women: An Exegetical Response to Traditionalism and Feminism, also agree that 1 Corinthians 14:34,35 and 1 Timothy 2:11,12 do not contain absolute prohibitions against women in ministry in a general sense. On 1 Corinthians 14 they came to this conclusion:

We concluded there that the translation “the women are to keep silent in the churches” is wrong and misleading. It should read, “the married women [or wives] are to keep silent in the churches.” And to read “men in general” in the place of “their own husbands” as the ones to whom they must “be in submission” is no less than a distortion of Scripture.


The Winstons go on to make an almost identical point to the one made in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia with regard to the marital relationship interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:

There is no doubt that aner and gune should be translated in 1 Timothy 2:9-15 in the same way as in 1 Peter 3:1-6: by “husband” and “wife” and not by “man” and “woman.” When Paul spoke elsewhere about man in relation to woman rather than about husband in relation to wife, he used other combinations of terms than aner and gune, as here. In Romans 1:26-27 he used arsen, man, in contrast with thelys, woman. Significantly, these two are the terms that most stress gender. Had Paul had the male sex and the female sex in mind in 1 Timothy 2:12, those terms would have been more appropriate.


Again we have a very salient point being made. If Paul had meant 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2 to apply to women (or females) in general, there was clearly a way in Greek to have done so. But the fact that he deliberately chose words that primarily translate in the New Testament as “husband” and “wife” seems to indicate a restricted meaning and application in these passages.


Craig S. Keener

While egalitarian scholar Craig S. Keener does not seem to see or address a husband/wife interpretation applying to 1 Timothy 2, and does not address such an interpretation of 1 Corinthians 14, he does argue for a culturally and contextually limited prohibition. In 1 Corinthians 14, he argues that, “The problem seems not to be women teaching but rather that the women are learning—too loudly.”
38 The women were being disruptive while learning, and perhaps asking unlearned questions, and that is why they were to “keep silent.”39 He also finds that Paul does not enjoin complete silence, since Paul had said earlier in the same book (11:5) that women could pray and prophesy. So the limitation applies to disruptive learning behavior, not preaching or teaching in this passage.

When Keener deals with 1 Timothy 2:11,12, his solution to the interpretive problem is unique and different from other egalitarians. Since Paul, in the overall context, is concerned with false teachers and their apparent targeting of women in the Ephesians church, Keener sees a more culturally localized prohibition limited to stopping uneducated women from teaching. As Dr. Keener himself explained:

If the problem with the Ephesian women was their lack of education and consequent susceptibility to false teaching, the text provides us a concrete local example of a more general principle: Those most susceptible to false teaching should not teach. But are women always the ones most susceptible to false teaching today?40


While it may be obvious that women are not always the ones most susceptible to false teaching, it is not so obvious that the general principle Paul was trying to get across was that “Those most susceptible to false teaching should not teach.” It seems reasonable to point out that had Paul had this specific idea in mind, he simply could have said, “I do not permit a woman deceived by false teaching to teach” or something to that affect. Since Paul does address false teaching in the overall context of 1 Timothy, there is perhaps some merit to the argument that Paul had false teaching and those susceptible to it in mind, but it seems a bit of a stretch to conclude from this that in 2:11,12 Paul’s primary concern was uneducated women who were being tricked by false teachers. Were there not any men being deceived also, and if so, why didn’t Paul address them as well in the same immediate context?


Last updated 7/19/14 More to come...stay tuned...




































1-All Scripture references are taken from the New King James Version (NKJV) unless noted otherwise.


2-Spiros Zodhiates, The Hebrew-Greek Key Study Bible: King James Version, the New Testament: Zodhiates' Original and Complete System of Bible Study (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1985), 1408.


3-Ibid., 1474.


4-John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, vol. 20 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979), 467-68.


5- Ibid., 468.


6-Ibid., vol. 21, 67.




8-Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry's Commentary On the Whole Bible, ed. Leslie Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1961), 1822.


9-Ibid., 1889.

10-Charles M. Laymon, ed., The Interpreter’s One Volume Commentary On the Bible: Introd. and Commentary For Each Book of the Bible Including the Apocrypha, with General Articles (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1971), 809.

11-Ibid., 885.


12-Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 483.


13-Ibid., 611.






16-Allen C. Myers, ed., The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 1063.




18-Jody Veenker, “Culture Clash: Asserting the Bible’s authority, Southern Baptists say
pastors must be male.” Christianity Today 44, no. 8 (July 10, 2000): 19-20.


19-Andreas J. Köstenberger, Thomas R. Schreiner, and H. Scott Baldwin, eds., Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of I Timothy 2:9-15 (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995), 127.


20-Ibid., 210.


21-Gordon P. Hugenberger, “Women in Church Office : Hermeneutics or Exegesis? A Survey
of Approaches to 1 Tim 2:8-15,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
35, no. 3 (September 1992): 351. Hugenberger quotes Luther’s Works: Commentaries on 1 Corinthians 7, 1 Corinthians 15, Lectures on 1 Timothy (ed. H.C. Oswald; St. Louis: Concordia, 1973) 28.276.


22-Ibid., 350-1. Hugenberger points to Konrad S. Matthies and C.S. Garratt, and commentators C.R. Erdman, A.E. Burn, and H.L. Goudge.


23- Ibid., 351.


24- Ibid.


25-Charles Rosenbury Erdman, Commentaries on the New Testament (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1928), 7:134.


26-Ibid., 14:35.


27-Charles Gore, Henry Leighton Goudge, and Alfred Guillaume, A New Commentary on Holy Scripture Including the Apocrypha (London: S.P.C.K., 1928), 509.


28-Linda L. Belleville, et al. Two Views on Women in Ministry (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 76-7.

29- Ibid.

30-Gore, Goudge, and Guillaume, A New Commentary on Holy Scripture Including the Apocrypha, 583.

31-Geoffrey William Bromiley, et. al, “Women in Church Leadership,” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol four: Q-Z (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 1979).


33-L. E. Maxwell and Ruth C. Dearing, Women in Ministry (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1987), 86-7.

34-Ibid., 96.

35-Ibid., 93-4.

36-George Murray Winston and Dora Winston, Recovering Biblical Ministry by Women: An Exegetical Response to Traditionalism and Feminism (Longwood, Fl.: Xulon Press, 2003), 392.

37-Ibid., 113.









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