20 Feb 2013

First Timothy 2.8-15 & the Silencing of Women in Worship

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: 1 Timothy, Bible, Exegesis, Hermeneutics, Ministry, Women
SilenceA learned Christian woman may expound the scriptures and urge obedience to them, to one hundred men and women at one time, as well as to one hundred, one at a time, … and no more violate a scriptural command in one instance than the other.” (Silena Holman in the Gospel Advocate, 1888)

In the past I have offered various thoughts on the theme of women in the Bible and relating that to our world today.  One text I’ve not addressed, and have come to believe is misused frequently is 1 Timothy 2.8-15.  I offer this study as preliminary thought even as though I have dug into it for many years. I believe that the exegesis of any text must be guided by its historical and literary context as well as its flow in the canonical story of God.  These are my presuppositions: I do not believe that whatever it is that Paul is saying in 1 Tim 2 is correcting, or contradicting, what he has said and done by example in other places. Not only that, but what he says must cohere with the whole sweep of the Story of Redemption.  I maintain that that numerous other texts are just as “plain” and “clear” as this one and just as authoritative.  So with these caveats in mind see if we can come with in “understanding distance” of the text (the phrase is Alexander Campbell’s).

Approaching the Subject – What are We afraid of?

The advancement of social equality for women in the last century and half has often brought great anxiety among many western men – including God-fearing, Bible loving, conservative Christian men. In the last one hundred years women have achieved remarkable advances in education, employment, athletic, and scientific endeavors.  We have learned that women are just as smart as men and work just as hard as men. They can drive tanks, fly planes and go into space and serve as presidents of universities, CEOs of corporations, and presidents of nations.

Most of the women involved in the nineteenth century women’s movement [1] were first involved in the Abolition Movement and the Temperance Movement as dedicated Christians pursuing their agendas on explicit biblical principles. Silena Holman is a shinning example within Churches of Christ of a dedicated female follower of Christ seeking biblical justice.  She is quoted at the head of this essay [2]. Many conscientious, God-fearing, men believed Scripture forbade women work outside the home, the right to vote, and in some cases simply to be educated as a man might be.

Today the situation is both radically different and strangely the same.  Men who fear women, caricature the women’s movement, or see females as sexual playgrounds remain. Without saying he falls into any of those areas, Roy Deaver is an example of one who seems to greatly misunderstand the issues involved in the wider movement  Deaver cites eight reasons why Churches of Christ must shore up its approach to women in the church.  Each of the eight is negative:

1) because feminist’s are working “feverishly” to break down all gender distinctions
2) because of his opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment
3) because of his opposition to government funded day care
4) because of his opposition to bring civil rights to homosexuals
5) because of his opposition to abortion
6) because feminists are trying to destroy capitalism and its patriarchal concepts
7) because of their efforts to reform marriage
8) because of his opposition to disarmament, guaranteed annual income, etc

According to Brother Deaver the “goals of feminists and the Communists are exactly the same.” [3]

LaGard Smith, another very popular writer, has shared his views on the matter of women in the church. In his book What Most Women Want (I have been privileged to hear Brother Smith lecture on the matter several times as well) he argues, like Deaver, that feminism is the cultural engine pushing the church into female ordination, deaconesses, and more participation in worship.  Smith’s charges are even wider than Deaver’s, laying the charge of paganism and New Ageism at the feet of those who believe that Scripture authorizes a broader view of women’s role than previously held in the late 20th & early 21st century Churches of Christ [4]. I hasten to add that Smith’s views were essentially my own for years.

Today, in my view, these two brothers illustrate how difficult it is for us to come to the Bible  afresh, especially the polarizing “role of woman.”  But we have to try to be fair to the entire canon and we must hear Paul as they would in the first century. These brothers are adamant – and so am I – about the priority of Scripture and listening to it [5]. But I believe they are as glued to a cultural worldview as anyone else. I believe their interpretation of Scripture is “plainly” culturally driven. They both fear something.  That something is, in their opinion, manifested in the women’s movement. It must be opposed.

I am not a radical feminist by any means, nor do I believe that one has to be to know that women have been denigrated and that feminist thinkers have raised profound questions for us to reflect upon in the light of God’s redemptive intent for creation. Thus I celebrate any and all moves that demonstrate my wife and my daughters are fully human, and as much imagers of God as any man.

Both of these beloved soldiers of the cross (and I have great respect for both), and many other men, appeal to 1 Timothy 2.8-15 as sort of the basic passage for limiting what women are allowed to do in worship (or in work).  The Kroeger’s have noted that “many evangelicals view all biblical passages about the role of and ministry of women through the lens of 1 Tim. 2:12. It becomes the key verse, the one on which all others turn” [6]. My goal is to understand the meaning of Paul’s word’s in their original context and ask what that means for us in our own setting today.

The Archeology of the Ancient Text: Historical & Literary Contexts

As a missionary, Paul, entered the capital of Roman Asia, Ephesus, he could not have missed one of the largest structures in the Hellenistic world. The magnificent temple to the Goddess Artemis – one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It had columns towering to six stories and was four times the size of the Parthenon in Athens, measuring about 377 by 235 ft [7]. Artemis was the center of life in Ephesus and this is demonstrated by the fact that the city stopped work and devoted itself to the the cult for a whole month each year [8].

Ancient historian, Gregory Sterling, notes that women in the Greco-Roman world were generally devalued and restricted to home. In the area of religion, however, women tended to achieve their greatest degree of “freedom.” He says that religion was the one state-sanctioned sphere where women were allowed to take leading public roles throughout the period” [9]. This freedom was especially true in the Cult of Artemis in Ephesus that was dominated by women.

The church that Timothy was put in charge of lived and breathed the atmosphere of that great pagan temple and its goddess. Just as the church in Corinth was affected by its surroundings, and churches in the South imbibed its environment, so the Ephesian church could not escape the toxins of the flamboyant and uninhibited worship of Artemis. The worship of Artemis was dominated by virgins dedicated to the goddess and castrated males. Kenneth Baily wonders, “what possibility would any male religious leadership have had for a sense of dignity and self-respect? What kind of female attitudes would have prevailed in such a city … Castration being the ultimate violence against the male, would not anti-male sexism in various forms have been inevitable” [10].

These few historical stones dug up already shed considerable light on both the depiction of Timothy in the epistle and the relation of 2.8-15 to the rest of the letter.  For example such a hostile environment could explain why Paul has to urge Timothy to stay at his post (1.3) and to “fight the good fight” (1.18 & 6.12) and to not let anyone look down upon him (4.12). Timothy, as we read the letter itself, seems to be a man just hanging on simply hoping Paul would return (3.14-15 & 4.13).  Timothy is urged to resist false teaching and ungodly behavior within the congregation (1.3-7, 19-20; 4.1-3, 7, 11-13; 5.20-22; 6.3-5, 20-21). This heavy emphasis, in such a small letter, reveals a church situation that is quite serious since some have already shipwrecked their faith (1.19) while others have missed the mark (6.21).  Timothy’s position seems to be in double jeopardy since the false teachers themselves seem to be among the elders of the church itself [11]. It is clear from any reading of the text as a whole that Paul has deep concerns for his younger padawan learner (for the Star Wars people) in this unfriendly urban pagan center of the Roman Empire.

The concern of Paul for Timothy helps explain the “all business” [12] nature of the letter to his son in the faith.  It even lacks the usual greeting (but it does have charin, in 1.12 which perhaps functions as a thanksgiving but that is not certain [13]) and the typical Pauline concluding “greeting.” It is clear from the content of 1.3-7 that Paul is seriously concerned with Timothy’s handling of the false teachers and their gangrenous teaching. However the unhealthy teachers are finding a receptive field among some ignorant (of the basic truths of the faith??) women who go from house church to house church spreading misinformation (5.13) [14].

Paul’s Correctives in 2.8-15

The wider concerns of the letter surface within this section of First Timothy especially in regard to certain women and the teaching being done. The larger unit of thought, 2.1-15, deals with appropriate decorum within the assembly.  It is generally recognized that Paul’s admonitions in this paragraph (vv. 8-15) are within instructions regarding the worship in the Gathering, especially prayer [15]. Everett Ferguson has argued convincingly that the Pauline phrase en panti topo in 2.8 is a technical designation to refer to the assembly of worship or place of prayer. In Christian usage the phrase becomes a short hand way of referring to the Lord’s Table [16].

Paul’s initial instructions, at first glance, seemed aimed at the male population of the Ephesian church. He tells them not quarrel or dispute; rather they are to offer up their hands in prayer to God in unity and without anger or disputing (v.8). This instruction anticipates Paul’s concern elsewhere in the letter about un-Christian attitudes prevailing in the house churches, especially among the false teachers (cf. 6.3-5).

But it is a less than careful reading to assume that Paul is speaking about only of men praying [17],  for Paul assumes that women will be, or are presently, praying in the assembly of the Ephesian church. Consider Paul’s use of

hosautos in v.9. The word is usually translated “likewise” or “in a similar manner” and is commonly used to refer to an idea which is already in the context of the passage.  In other words, it can refer, in its usual form, to an idea already mentioned previously which is to be repeated in what follows.  As France has commented, “the reference to women’s dress and demeanor is not changing to a new subject, but turning from how men should pray to how women for their part are to pray” [18]. Paul simply assumes the privilege of prayer to both men and women in the assembly just as he did at Corinth (1 Cor 11.4-5).  This is a good and possible way to understand the Greek, for v.9 has no verb.  F. F. Bruce has also suggested this line of reasoning in his Answers to Questions that

when hosautos has its full force the text can read: when men pray, the hands they lift up should be holy hands:  When women pray, their attitude and demeanor should be chaste. He cites Chrysostom’s Homily on Timothy as support that women were praying in Ephesus and this understanding of the verse.

Paul’s concern over female decorum in v.9 suits the context we have described in ancient Ephesus. Keener points out that beauty was packaged in antiquity just as it is today [19]. These women addressed by Paul are clearly from the elite wealthy class whose appearance is grounded in their domineering attitudes we expect from the Cult of Artemis[20]. Alvera Mickelsen sees the connection between Paul’s concern with clothing and jewelry and Artemis.  She writes:

“In Ephesus with its huge temple to the goddess Artemis were hundreds of sacred priestesses who probably also served as sacred prostitutes. There were also hundreds of hetaerae, the most educated of Greek women who were the extramarital sexual partners of upper-class Greek men. Possibly some of these women had been converted and were wearing their suggestive and expensive clothing to church. Since hetaerae were often respected teachers of men in Greece (many are named in Greek literature), they would be more likely to become teachers after they became part of the church.” [21]

These women, instead of being ostentatious (uppity! in a bad way) should adorn themselves with good works as they enter prayer … that are fitting for all servants of Christ.

Moving into verse 11 Paul uses the first imperative of this paragraph, manthaneto. Paul does not merely tell women to be quiet but commands them to learn! It was not a conclusion that women would naturally become learners in the first century as Sterling reminds us that women were routinely left out of the education process [22]. Paul, however, wants the female disciples at Ephesus to be learners and students (it should be recalled that in 2 Tim 2.2, Timothy himself became a learner in order to be a teacher!). She is not to be arrogant but “silent” (NRSV). Hesuchia does not mean, as we are sometimes told in church, the absence of verbal communication or that ladies cannot contribute to the learning (or do announcements!).  Rather, Paul is emphasizing the attitude of the learner – remember the historical setting – she should have a spirit of learning [23].  These freshly converted women are not to come in and assume control, but rather they are commanded to become students (disciples) and learners first.The recent Kingdom New Testament captures quite well Paul’s aim here: “They [women] must study undisturbed, in full submission to God (1 Tim 2.11).

Paul’s oft quoted statement in v.12, “I permit not a woman ...” probably does not mean what the KJV says at all. Paul uses a present indicative verb epitrepo which many scholars render “I am not allowing …“[24]  This rendering shows the concern Paul has for the historical and social reality of the Ephesian church in the shadow of Artemis. Paul uses a rare Greek verb (used only here in the entire New Testament), authentein, to describe what the women are not to be doing. Lots of ink has been spread on this word. Paul’s typical word for “authority” is proistemi, which he uses several times in the letter (3.4-5, 12 & 5.17) or exousia. These other words are readily available to Paul but he did notdomination use either in reference to these women or this situation.

As noted already, there has been considerable controversy over the actual meaning of the rare word authenteo in 1 Tim 2. The Kroeger’s have argued at length against the background of the mystery religions and early Gnosticism that the term meant actual or representational murder [25]. This view could make sense in the context of the life of the church. But Carroll Osburn has challenged some of the Kroeger’s thesis, suggesting that the while the term does sometimes mean “murder” it more often in Koine Greek has the connotation to “domineer.”[26]  It cannot legitimately be argued that Paul is simply restricting women from exercising authority.  The word is a violent word and is used in violent contexts whether we understand it to be “murder” in some sense or gross “domination.” Again Paul does not use this word in any other place nor does any other NT writer. It is an extraordinary word called for by extraordinary circumstances. Paul is rejecting unhealthy assertiveness on the part of certain women that would be incompatible with men too (cf. Eph 5.21 & 1 Cor 11.11-12).  France has suggested translating the verse as “I do not allow these ignorant women to batter the men. They are to stop shouting and calm down.” [27]

Paul emphasizes that these women are to keep a quiet and peaceful demeanor (the idea of not fighting or arguing is pronounced in the Pastorals).  His use of hesuchia at the end of v.12 does not mean the woman cannot speak … as we have seen, they are praying.  But rather they are to assume a humble and peaceful demeanor.  This is the third time, in fact, that Paul has used this term in this section of 1 Timothy.  Why is it that when we read at the beginning of the present chapter that we are to pray for kings “so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life” (2.2) that no one assumes Paul is commanding the disciples to a life of silence!? But it is the exact same term in both vv 11 and 12! The word does not forbid speaking and in fact has little if anything to do with it.

What is Going on?  Creation or Fall? 

In this section, I am far more tentative than in my previous exposition. This is where I am as of today.  It is assumed by many writers, such as Deaver and Smith, that Paul, since he mentions Eve, grounds his teaching in “creation” or God’s original design [28]. I am not convinced of this.  R. T. France has suggested that Paul is not working with a creation principle at all but a “fall principle” [29]. Paul does not have Genesis 1 in mind but the unit of Genesis 2 and 3 in these verses. Paul seems to be illustrating from this well known text what happened when another misinformed woman made a dreadful decision by listening to a “false teacher” resulting in drastic consequences.  Eve was created as Adam’s complement or completer (not his handmaiden).  See my What did God Say? Gen 2.1b & Man’s ‘Helper’ But she acted in ignorance (not a put down of her) and listened to the Serpent [30]. So in some way the Ephesian women are asserting their independence in the face of men and being deceived by false teachers. As France put it “in such a situation they must be denied the right to teach” [31]. The issue is a heart problem not a gender problem.

Paul’s illustration from the Fall narrative can arguably be used to show the occasional nature of his instruction to the Ephesian church rather than some universal principle. In Romans 5.12ff Paul argues the exact opposite as he does here on the origin of Sin within creation. In that context it is Adam, not Eve, who is the progenitor of sin and death in the world.  Adam was chosen precisely because he was a man in that context and thus representative of all who went into sin – males and females [32].

Paul’s Correction and the Story of Redemption

Richard Lints notes that it “is easy enough to affirm that any given passage of Scripture means what it says. But it can be a good deal more difficult to determine exactly what a text is saying” [33]. Scripture is not as simplistic as it is sometimes affirmed to be. Our present text and context bristles with questions and we sweep them under the rug hiding difficulties because they are not burning issues with us.  Lints is correct but one way to help understand texts is within the canonical horizon that each text in as part of the Story of Redemption.  I will try to be brief, but 1 Timothy does not exist by itself but as part of the canon.  It is clear that whatever correction that Paul makes, it does not restrict women from praying in the assembly of the church. They are doing that both here and in 1 Corinthians 11.4-5. Nor does this passage, even within the context of the Ephesian church, prohibit women deacons. It is clear from 3.11 that Paul refers to a group of women in the same category as male deacons[34].See my Voices on Female Deacons in the Stone-Campbell Movement.

It is clear that a number of women in the history of redemption have been called by the Lord God to have functional authority over his people.  Miriam (Micah 6.4) was equal with Moses and Aaron.  Deborah was a judge and a prophet over “all Israel” (Judges 4.4) and the author of Scripture (Judges 5).  Here authority is clearly over both male and female Israelites [35]. Huldah exercised great authority in the days of Josiah by the Lord’s direction.  When Hilkiah was instructed to “inquire of the Lord” one wonders why he and Shaphan did not seek out the prophet Jeremiah instead of this woman prophet (2 Kings 22.14-20 & 2 Chronicles 34.22-33).  Indeed Huldah is credited with being the catalyst for Josiah’s reform and the first person to declare a writing to be Scripture. See my Huldah Who? The Forgotten Ministry of a Female Prophet. Esther wrote with “full authority” from God to direct the worship of Israel at Purim (Esther 9.29, 32). There are many more portions of the canonical horizon of 1 Timothy 2.12 that is simply dismissed without a second thought by many restorationists.  I do not feel at ease in Zion following that pattern if disregard for the Scripture.

In the New Testament there is manifold evidence from Paul’s own writings that women were hardly silent and unseen. Phoebe was a deacon and patron of the church in the Corinthian suburb known as Cenchrea (Romans 16.1-2, NRSV, TNIV, etc). Paul identifies no less than ten women in Romans 16, designating many with the same terminology as he does men, that of “co-workers.” He even calls one woman, Junia, an apostle (Romans 16.7). That Paul could call a woman an apostle has startled so many men that in the medieval period they even contrived to make this woman into a man.  There is no evidence in any Greek manuscript or version for the supposed masculine (Junias) prior to the thirteenth century A.D. [36]. Women were praying and prophesying in the church of Corinth (1 Cor 11.4-5, as well as Ephesus).  This New Testament evidence, of which more could be added, should provide some clues to interpreting 1 Timothy 2.12 but it is usually disregarded as “postscript theology” [37] or denigrated  as “non-didactic” evidence … or just plain ignored all together.

The Ancient Text and Us

I believe that most uses of 1 Timothy 2 are illegitimate wresting of Scripture.  Failures in both exegesis and hermeneutical approach mar typical use of the text. It is not a trump card against female participation in the assembly of the church. It is clear that Paul does not want women (or men!) to domineer other Christians. Paul’s chastisement of the Corinthians for their table etiquette reveals that fallen social stratification of the world has no place in the kingdom of God. He does want them to learn (ironically the Hebrews Preacher wants his hearers to learn too so they could be teachers! He does not suggest that only women should be) he does want their life to be representative of the “quiet and peaceful life” he urges for all Christians in (again using the same term) in v.2.

But in our current applications of this text we are so inconsistent.  Churches of Christ frequently say that Paul does not let women teach men, lead singing, wait on the table, pray or even make announcements. And praying is explicitly stated by the apostle Paul as something women were and can do in the assembly.  On the other hand “we” have no difficulty in letting women write authoritative books and articles, write the songs we sing, teach men in colleges, teach in Sunday schools (as long as they are unbaptized!) and even evangelize in a non-Western context [38]. So we are either inconsistent at best or deceptive at worst with the text. Deaver may be a case in point when he writes,

“The divine restriction – in force in the Old Testament times and in force in the New Testament times – simply that the woman is not at any time, in any place, in any way, or in any circumstance to place herself (or allow herself to be placed in a position which would necessarily (inherently) involve her having dominion over a man.”

This is so because, according to Deaver, by God’s design women are in “subordination or subjection” to men. I do not see how Deaver’s words not only forbid a woman from being a deacon, teacher, song leader but also a police officer, principal in a public school or allow women to be anything other than a housewife!![39]  I cannot disagree more strongly with Deaver! The ministry of women in the Bible – I’ve already mentioned them by name – was real.  They really did lead God’s people. That is the simplest and most straightforward reading of Deborah, Esther, Huldah and others. Why is it legitimate hermeneutical procedure to act as if these texts in the inspired word are simply not there?

It seems to me a legitimate application of Paul’s correction in Ephesus recognizes is particularity … that is it squares with its context(s).  Fee notes the remarkable similarity between the instructions to women in 2.8-15 and 5.11-15.

“Rather than displaying the ‘good works’ of the older widows, which includes child rearing (5.10), they have apparently ‘given themselves to pleasure’ (v.6) have grown wanton against Christ in their desire to remarry (v.12 apparently outside the faith). Furthermore, they have become busybodies, going from house church to house church talking foolishness and speaking things they should not (v.13; the false teachings? cf. the description of the false teachers in 1.6-7). As such they have already gone astray after Satan (v.15). Paul’s solution here is for them to remarry (vis-a-vis the false teachers; cf. 4.3) and bear children, so as not to give the enemy cause to reproach the gospel. The concern and solution in 2:9-15 are nearly identical.” [40]

It is clear, given the situation in Ephesus, that Paul is dealing with a major problem in that congregation and deals with it in an appropriate pastoral manner. It is clear, to me anyway at this time, that Paul is not making a general rule but dealing with the specific church issue that was rooted in the shadows of Artemis … a situation that seems to be getting the best of Timothy.  Nor is it apparent that Paul is appealing to a creational value but instead illustrates what happens when men and women do not live together in a mutually supportive relationship.

In the final analysis, it is no more valid to use 1 Timothy 2.8-15 to teach the subjection of women any more than to use 1 Timothy 6.1 to teach the validity of slavery in our world.  Any hermeneutic that legitimates chattel slavery is wrong but there were plenty that have done so in the past.

First Timothy 2 prohibits the ungodly domineering – even chauvinistic – attitudes that run roughshod over other people.  It excludes certain unlearned (about the basics of the faith) women from being teachers and commands them to be learners. Paul has the same directives for men too.

These are my thoughts … as of now. I do not claim any infallibility for them.


1] See Rebecca Merrill Groothuis’ Women Caught in the Conflict: The Culture War between Traditionalism and Feminism (Baker 1994) for an excellent historical overview of the roots of the Women’s Movement in Scripture.  See also Anna M. Speicher, The Religious World of Antislavery Women: Spirituality in the Lives of Five Abolitionist Lecturers (Syracuse University Press 2000) and Julie Roy Jeffrey The Great Silent Army of Abolitionism: Ordinary Women in the Antislavery Movement (University of North Carolina Press 1998).

2] See C. Leonard Allen, “Silena Moore Holman (1850-1915), Voice of the ‘New Woman’ among Churches of Christ,” Discipliana 56 (1996): 3-11

3] Roy Deaver, The Role of Women (Biblical Notes, n.d.), p. 3

4] F. LaGard Smith, What Most Women Want (Harvest House 1992), pp. 123-136.

5] Many who oppose a wider role of women’s roles within the church charge carte blanch that those who differ with them as rejecting the authority of Scripture.  R. T. France notes “both sides find it hard to accept that the opposing conclusions might in fact have been honestly reached by people of equal integrity and equal commitment to the authority of Scipture.” Women in the Church’s Ministry: A Test Case for Biblical Interpretation (Eerdmans 1995), p. 11.

6] Richard C. Kroeger & Catherine C. Kroeger, I Suffer Not a Woman: Rethinking 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in Light of Ancient Evidence (Baker 1992), p. 12.

7] John McRay, Archaeology and the New Testament (Baker 1991), p. 256.

8] Richard E. Oster, “The Ephesian Artemis as an Opponent of Early Christianity,” Jahrbuch fur Antike und Christentum 19 (Aschendorff 1976), 24-44.  Professor Oster has greatly expanded this research in a more comprehensive essay, “Ephesus as a Religious Center under the Principate, I. Paganism before Constantine,” Aufstieg und Niedergang der romischen Welt, II. 18.3 Ed. H. Temporini and W. Haasa (de Gryter 1990): 1661-1728

9] Gregory E. Sterling, “Women in the Hellenistic and Roman Worlds (323 BCE-138 CE),” in Ed. Carroll D. Osburn, Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity, vol 1 (College Press 1995), p. 85.

10] Bailey quoted in R. T. France, Women in the Church’s Ministry, pp. 58-59

11] This makes sense in light of Paul’s prophecy in Acts 20.25-32. See also Gordon D. Fee’s defense of this position in his commentary, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus (Hendrickson 1988), 7ff.

12] Gordon Fee, Gospel & Spirit: Issues in New Testament Hermeneutics (Hendrickson 1991), p.56

13] Thomas C. Greer, Jr. “Admonitions to Women in 1 Tim. 2:8-15,” in Ed. Carroll D. Osburn, Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity vol 1, p. 283.

14] The NIV & NRSV read “gossips” for pluaroi but it more than likely has the meaning of “nonsense” or “foolishness” here. The widows seem to be involved in unlearned discourse which was received from the false teachers.

15] Craig S. Keener, Paul, Wives & Women: Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul (Hendrickson 1992), 102-103.

16] Everett Ferguson, “Topos in 1 Timothy 2.8,” Restoration Quarterly 33 (1991), 65-73.

17] As do Ferguson, ibid, p. 73 and Deaver, Role of Women, p. 17.

18] France, Women’s Ministry in the NT, p. 62. See also Keener, Paul, Women & Wives, p. 103 and Greer, Admonitions to Women in 1 Tim. 2:8-15,” p. 290.

19] Keener, Paul, Women & Wives, p. 104

20] Alan Padgett, “Wealthy Women at Ephesus: 1 Timothy 2:8-15 in Social Context,” Interpretation 41 (1987): 19-31. Padgett also demonstrates that Paul mirrors many of the moralists of his day in his critique.

21] Quoted in Stanley J. Grenz, Women in the Church: A Biblical Theology of Women in the Ministry (IVP 1995), p. 126.

22] Sterling, Women in the Hellenistic and Roman Worlds,” pp. 55-57

23] Murry J. Harris, “Quiet, Rest, Silence, Sound, Voice, Noise,” New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Ed. Colin Brown (Zondervan 1978), Vol 3, p.111-112. LaGard Smith in What Most Women Want recognizes this term is not the same as in 1 Cor 14.34 but then states they essentially mean the same anyway. He says “it has a similar meaning–to hold one’s peace.” He then states quietness in this context “is an attitude regarding one’s relative position in a hierarchy of spiritual authority” (pp. 251-252). It seems to me that Smith has simply assumed his conclusion for neither “quietness” means what he says nor does the context refer to recognizing one’s place in a “hierarchy” of authority.” If anything Paul is attacking an attitude of hierarchy.

24] See Gordon Fee, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, p. 72.  Greer suggests the same rendering, “Admonitions to Women in 1 Tim 2:8-15,” p. 292

25] Kroeger’s I Suffer Not a Woman, pp. 185-188. Catherine Kroeger’s view has evolved from understanding the term with an erotic connotation to the view just mentioned.

26] Carroll Osburn, “Authenteo (1 Timothy 2:12),” Restoration Quarterly 25 (1982): 1-12.

27] France, Women in the Church’s Ministry, p. 66.

28] Deaver, Role of Women, p. 17-18 and Smith, What Most Women Want, pp. 253-254.

29] France, Women in the Church’s Ministry, p. 67

30] See also the analysis of Genesis 1-3 by Rick Marrs, “In the Beginning: Male and Female in Gen 1-3,” in Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity vol 2 (College Press 1995), 1-36.

31] ibid, 68

32] Gordon Fee, Gospel & Spirit, pp. 61-62.

33] Richard Lints, The Fabric of Theology: A Prolegomenon to Evangelical Theology (Eerdmans 1993), p. 295.

34] Barry Blackburn, among many others, has demonstrated that “The Identity of the Women in 1 Tim 3.11” was female deacons, cf Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity, vol 1, pp. 303-319

35] Deborah (and Huldah) is clearly a thorn in the flesh for authors like LaGard Smith. As he reads it, Deborah was uncomfortable with her role and was actually in a covert operation to renew male leadership, in his words, “in the story of Deborah, the message is clear: Great shame attached itself to the men of Israel for failing to assume their responsibility as leaders and protectors,” What Most Women Want, p. 116. I confess to having missed that clear message in the Deborah narrative. The shame, if present in the story, is no greater than any other portion of Judges. One gets a better appreciation of the ministry of Deborah in Charme Robarts, “Deborah: Judge, Prophetess, Military Leader, and Mother in Israel,” in Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity, vol 2, pp. 69-86

36] Peter Lampe, “The Roman Christians of Romans 16,” in The Romans Debate, revised edition. Edited by Karl P. Donfried (Hendrickson 1991), pp.216-230.

37] LaGard Smith, What Most Women Want, pp. 211-219

38] Robert Rowland has exposed our inconsistency in Churches of Christ.  Velma West could teach men New Testament Greek at Harding Graduate School of Religion just as long as she never told them what it meant!! An impossibility in my view.  I Permit Not a Woman … To be Remain Shackled (Lighthouse 1991).

39] Deaver, Role of Women, p. 18

40] Gordon Fee, Gospel & Spirit, pp. 57-58

33 Responses to “First Timothy 2.8-15 & the Silencing of Women in Worship”

  1. sonny Says:

    bobby, excellent analysis. i especially agree with the last observation. while we would all now agree that slavery is not justified in our world by the text, many still argue the subjugation of women is. i predict Christians in the future will be just as appalled by our use of the text on this issue as we are about the slavery issue today. thanks for the thoughts. sonny

  2. John Mark Hicks Says:

    I like what you have done here, brother. Quite helpful.

  3. Keith Pruitt Says:

    Bobby, this is a most excellent study. I actually have What Most Women Want sitting on my desk. In the series I was doing on questions answered last year on face book, I was asked to tackle this question. This is why the book has not yet come out because of a couple of questions needing research. You have greatly helped me in delivering such a tremendous deep and serious study of scriptures. Now this is a bible study!

  4. Jack Hairston Says:

    1 Timothy 2:12 is usually translated woman/man, but 1 Peter 3:1 is translated wife/husband. It seems to me that Paul and Peter are agreeing. The only person that a woman should never teach is her husband, because it messes up the marital relationship.

  5. Randall Says:

    Great study Bobby. I appreciate your efforts and for sharing them with us. One small suggestion would be that some scholarship be presented for the opposition other than Roy Deaver and Lagard Smith. While these men are respected in CofC circles they don’t have the reputations of Bruce and Fee. I believe there are fine scholars with great reps whose works might be of interest. Hesed, Randall

  6. Gil Says:

    Artemis was to the Gentiles in Ephesus and throughout Asia what Yahweh was for the Jews in Jerusalem and throughout Judea.

    Despite the introduction of Artemis in Acts 19 the saints in Christ remain pretty much clueless about her. The survey knowledge of Artemis tends toward borderline voyeurism in Bible study. What is it the captive audience of saints are usually fed: the sexual immoral practices of temple priestesses/prostitutes. Nothing is ever said about the prevalent beliefs of the cult of Artemis. These are found in various ways, detail and brevity in Paul’s five letters to Asian churches and include: 1) she was the SAVIOR of women, 2) she was the FIRSTBORN of twins, who immediately after her birth, turned to assist her mother given birth to Apollo, and 3) she presided over KINGS. Paul’s are refutations and affronts to these beliefs.

    Asia is where Paul himself was twice forbidden by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the gospel. Did the Holy Spirit ever inform us when the ban was lifted so that when Paul re-entered Asia and stayed at Ephesus for two years could proclaim the gospel?

    No. Yet, I have no doubt the strategic silence on Paul was lifted once he had infiltrated Ephesus.

    Did the Holy Spirit inform us when the ban on our sisters was lifted so they could teach and preach the gospel in Ephesus and throughout Asia?

    No. Yet, the reason for the struggle to accept it was lifted is because we are as clueless about the strategic purpose of Paul’s as we are about the cult of Artemis; a strategy for the cause of the gospel he employed several times.

  7. Kent West Says:

    Although I’ve noticed that it’s often true of scholarly materials, I believe it’s a mistake to assume the reader knows what the text under discussion says, or has ready reference to it. Accordingly, I would suggest that you actually quote the verses, or at least the relevant text from them, much more freely than you have done. I, for one, was interested in what you had to say, but don’t know from memory what 1 Tim 2:8-15 says, so I just had to piece together what the text said from hints in your post, until I could get to a Bible wherein I could look up the passage.

  8. Kent West Says:

    I really like how commenter Gil, above, points out that the cult of Artemis was grander than just the sex-oriented presentation we’re usually given. (But Gil, I don’t recall any reference in “Paul’s five letters to Asian churches” which deal with her twin-ness, or midwifery to her mother during Apollo’s birth, or presiding over kings. Perhaps you meant that these details are found external to Paul’s writings? Or are those references just not coming to my mind, in which case, some reference citations would have been helpful?)

    • Aaron Kirkpatrick Says:

      I think what Randy means is that when you understand the practices and beliefs of the Artemis cult, you begin to hear the echos of those beliefs in the writings of Paul. There are several in 1 Timothy 2, but without my Bible in front of me, I’ll just give you the easiest. The last verse in chapter 2 says (paraphrasing) “but women will be saved through childbearing.”
      I have heard – only once – a professor and preacher say that this meant that you had to have a kid to be saved if you’re a woman. At face value, that’s as fair an assertion as women having to remain silent in church. But when you understand that the Artemis cult believed that it was the goddess Artemis who kept women safe while they bore children, suddenly that verse makes MUCH more sense. When Paul says that women will be saved through (or in/during, which are also valid translations) child bearing, he’s calling out that pagan belief and reassuring the Christians that it is Yahweh, not Artemis who protects women.
      That’s one of several examples of the Artemis cult being subtly called out in the writings of Paul. If you read 1 Tim with Artemis in mind, they pop up all over the place. Hope that helps.

  9. Kent West Says:

    You say, “But in our current applications of this text we are so inconsistent.” I think this is a very important point. We refuse to apply the silent-rule to women in all situations. More than anything, this indicates to me that we’ve either been misunderstanding the “women must be silent” passages, or we really aren’t interested in obeying God’s commands unless we agree with those commands (which is not obedience, but rather agreement).

  10. Susan Says:

    Very interesting blog discussion, thank you very much…I like that you say that the ungodly domineering, and chauvenistic, attitudes are addressed to both men and women throughout NT texts. I agree. Still, the “8 fears” of Deaver are something that I also hold to and find myself holding to a position of not wanting a woman to be pastor.

    I also agree that we all have much to learn, and we are to be in submission to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus first and foremost. I have a terrible tendency to hold to what I think are my own superior thoughts, rather than submitting humbly to learning, and by my own prejudices in this area, I find myself to be quite the hypocrite!

    Thank you for a blog post which is causing me to contend for my faith on a deeper, and much more uncomfortable, level.

  11. Bruce Morton Says:

    I read this: “Paul’s illustration from the Fall narrative can arguably be used to show the occasional nature of his instruction to the Ephesian church rather than some universal principle.” When Paul uses “formed” in the text, how can he be arguing from “the fall”? The answer? He is not? He is arguing from Adam and Eve’s creation.

    Let the text say what it says. The Spirit through Paul is not issuing an “occasional nature” instruction. He is issuing one for Ephesus and one for our day.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  12. poet_imp Says:

    Bobby, I probably agree with you and I suspect you did a good and thorough job of analysis. Unfortunately you exceeded my attention span.

    This is an important matter. We really need to find a way to communicate this in a way that can be understood by the common person.

  13. Randall Says:

    I wonder if the comment by poet_imp about exceeding attention span has something to say about the CofC, and perhaps even evangelicals as a whole? This is in no way intended as a criticism of any person in particular – just an observation about today’s “theological” world.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    You could write a million words and I’d know your conclusion before you penned the very first syllable–very predictable in your liberalism. Yawn.

    • Phillip Says:

      I find it interesting where you call out the “liberalism” of this article while the author is quoting scripture, the gospel advocate, and many restoration authors. He is using “conservative” sources and comparing them to the Holy Bible. He is not simply taking these old men at their word but holding them to a higher standard–that standard being the Bible in it’s entirety and original language. As someone raised in the church of Christ I was always told to examine the scriptures since “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” 2Tim 3:16.

      If studying the scriptures in context and not holding traditions for tradition sake is liberal then maybe the church could use some more liberals like the author, here.

    • Aaron Kirkpatrick Says:

      At least the “liberal” here had the courage to post his thoughts with his name attached. Your criticism gets no audience here until you come out from behind the coward’s cover of the name “anonymous.”

  15. Robrt Kilpatrick Says:

    By the way, slavery was never biblically wrong. The forced slavery of kidnapped people was prohibited. In fact, there was a God-established death sentence for kidnappers.
    I believe the teachings of the Apostle Paul (from the Lord Himself) on the women’s role in the church were NO different than then they were in a marriage. The man’s the head. The woman is the helper. A woman was to win her disobedient husband over thru her quiet and gentle (non-domineering/non-nagging) spirit. The wife is not to spiritually dominate her husband OR other men in the church. That’s not her God established ministry.

  16. Alan Wiles Says:

    Recently I heard about women rising to the occasion to not only be present during the worship,but actually taking an active role during services, such as, reaching. I wil ned to study your comments, scripture references and some of the non-biblical sources of information. I have heard for years and read for years about Phoebe and others having an active leadership role during the 1st century. I want to srudy this more before I mentioning this where I worship.

  17. SammyBoy Says:

    Mr. Morton,

    Your comment strongly implies that verse 13 stands apart form verse 14, as separate reasons or supports for a particular argument. I believe that Mr. Valentine is here suggesting that such a separation is unnecessary, if not plainly incorrect. It can be that the two verses are to be considered together as one extended statement. That is, that the whole Adam/Eve narrative, taken as a whole, supports the argument, rather than the argument being made one verse at a time. The point is not that Adam was created first, so women should be silent, but that the deception of the woman was the problem.

  18. Paula Harrington Says:

    Excellent. Thank you.

  19. allen ashlock Says:

    You have written excellent words worthy of consideration. For many years I have had problems fully swallowing the traditional interpretation of I Timothy 2 in our brotherhood. It is refreshing to read your words. Again, I emphasize that just because men have said this or that about this text does not mean any of them are “God”. We must respect the force of the original languages, historical evidences, as well as proper theological interpretations. Their are several knifes being put into the body of Christ today by members of the church. One is the false view of the work of women in the church. This knife is one major reason for our decline and possible death in coming decades. I realize we cannot just do anything to survive but we must be sure that if men reject the gospel we preach they so because they are rejecting Jesus and not our ridiculous interpretations and applications of Scriptures. God bless all as we journey together in pursuit of God’s truth and the salvation of souls.

  20. Kevin Says:

    Having been in churches of Christ all my life, I have heard several discussions and lessons on this topic. I’m sure there are some within our fellowship who allow culture or preference or even sexism to influence their theology. Churches of Christ are hardly, hardly, hardly unique here. In my experiences, however, most people who I know have arrived at their conclusions based more on the text and less on some misogynistic worldview. That’s my perception anyway. So, what are we afraid of? Disobeying God. I sincerely believe that is the crux of the matter for the people I know who hold to “roles of women” in the church.

  21. Trent Says:

    I find the research scholarly and still in some cases shallow. There are too many assumptions that enter the discussion. Historical background is useful and helpful, but proves nothing. It gives a cultural context in which to review the text, but to suggest that it is the primary reason Paul gave instruction on a woman’s role in the assembly is a supposition at best. I would also ask that more time be given to so many of the other New Testament passages that address the roles of submission and subjection (for it is not just about women, the topic of submission is an important one to all Christians). Is our submission to Christ cultural flexible? What about submission to government (Romans 12)? When we don’t like a position the Bible presents, we find a cultural reason to reject it and that is dangerous, dangerous approach to the Bible. You can chalk up to me being old fashion, but the best commentary on the Bible is the rest of the Bible. If we go there first, rather than seek cultural justifications for our preconceived positions we will be much better off.

  22. Warren Baldwin Says:

    Very helpful, Bobby. You might enjoy this by NT Wright: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mwj287xr0uQ

  23. David U Says:

    Great scholarly work here Bobby ! Keep challenging us !

  24. Teresa Says:

    I have been wrestling with this subject a lot lately. I have tried to step back from what I have been taught, because there seemed to be contradictions. How can women be told to be silent, and yet pray and prophesy in the assembly. Philip, the evangelist had 4 daughters that prophesied. Now I could be wrong, but I feel like 1 Timothy 2:11-14 does actually hold the answer. When I look at the greek word for teach, it appears to me to be the term used for having the actually leadership role as a teacher. I will try and illustrate what this means to me. If there is a teacher that is hired to teach in a classroom, they have the title teacher, and have complete authority over that classroom. If they asked me to come in and teach, I have not taken over her job, I am still under there authority. But they have given me permission to teach. And as such, I have to submit to what they want me to do, or they will never let me come back. lol It seems to me that women were given a lot of freedom in scripture, with the understanding that we are always to submit to the authority of men. And we are not given the leadership titles, therefore giving us complete authority over a man. But were allowed and permitted to use what God had gifted them to do.

  25. James McDaniel Says:

    The CofC doesn’t exist in any more of a vacuum today than it did when Timothy preached in the shadow of the temple of Artemis. Our world has an attention span of 12.5 Minutes. The learning cycle is learned by rout. Our collective Common experience is TV viewing, 12.5 minutes from one Commercial To the next. Gentlemen there are some things we can change but where possible we Must adapt.

  26. Terry Christopher Says:

    I appreciate the even tone and rigorous, if not academic, presentation of the post. I would like to simply share a personal frustration concerning how I perceive many Church of Christ discussions about women preaching in a corporate worship context.

    In most evangelical circles the terms egalitarian and complementarian are used to help orientate the basic divide over the role of women in worship. Typically, those in the Church of Christ who support the role of women to preach in a corporate worship context present intelligently the egalitarian view. Yet, the counter view of egalitarianism is generally presented in a truncated, if not distorted, way(i.e., Roy Deaver and LaGard Smith). What about the scholarly and academic presentation of complemetarianism that intelligently and credibly challenge the historical-cultural assumptions of this post?

    I do not know if the ignoring of complementarianism is intentional or whether there is just an unawareness. There is a vast body of Christians (Southern Baptists, Reformed Presbyterians, for example)who hold to complementarianism and are far better advocates then Deaver or Smith. Sites like the Gospel Coalition would be one good place to start. I think this post presented a straw-man argument by propping up Smith and Deaver (weak advocates), and then presenting an intelligent egalitarian view.

  27. Paula Robbins Says:

    I appreciate how clearly you address the ongoing inconsistency of typical Church of Christ exegesis, something that has troubled me for some time. We seem to arbitrarily dismiss some instructions as cultural and temporary (head coverings, wearing jewelery and styled hair) while insisting that other commands are eternally binding.
    I am very concerned that ideas like Mr. Deaver’s eight points of opposition will have (and probably have had) the unintended effect of leaving some women with the impression that their only choice is to embrace strict submission/ subjugation or to align themselves with some of the more radical philosophies he mentions.

  28. Robert C. Lupo Says:

    Mr. Valentine,
    It took you much longer to try to undo what Paul taught in just a few words.The Scriptures are not as vague as you make them out to be. In all of your writing, you have missed the clear and indisputable teaching of the text.

    The difference between your writings and Paul’s… Paul writings… “they are the commandment of the Lord” (1Cor 14:37). Yours… they are an appeal to your own thoughts and the thoughts of other mere men. Paul wrote what God breathed into him to write (2 Tim 3:16-17). They are just as good, authoritative and binding now, as they were when he penned them.

    While it is important for us to know the historical context of the writing, that context does not change what is clearly revealed in the text regarding the freedoms and limitations in the roles of both men and women serving in the church. The genders mentioned and the roles they pertain to are specific.

    Finally, out of love for your soul, I would ask you to read and obey Revelation 22:18-19. Stop adding confusion to the matter… muddying the waters, which will lead the ignorant and unsteadfast to disobedience of God’s word and the destruction of their souls (Romans 16:17-18; 2 Peter 3:16).

  29. Mike Says:

    Thank you for posting this. I am researching this subject and here are some of my thoughts:

    How come no-one looks at the Didache and what it says about the teachers of the church or the Jewish view of women in a leadership role of the church?

    What happened to preaching and teaching being an role of the/an Elder

    How do you handle that it was Gnostic’s that claimed Junia was an apostle <most versions state she and her husband were well know by the Apostles, not that she was an Apostle herself) and they person that started this was deemed a heretic?

    What does it mean in 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 "That woman are to be silent…in submission and the LAW also says" ?

    I am really looking for help in trying to fgure all of this out.


  1. When Fish Form Committees - Patrickmead.org

Leave a Reply