“A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet” (1 Timothy 2:11-12 NASB).
As we consider the proper way to apply the teachings of this passage, we should note what it says as well as what it doesn’t say. For instance, a closer look at this reference to quietness reveals that it does not refer to an absence of speech. Instead, we can obtain a better definition of this word by examining its meaning in the original language…
“The word, hēsychia, translated ‘quietness’ in 1Ti_2:11 and silent in 1Ti_2:12, does not mean complete silence or no talking. It is clearly used elsewhere (Act_22:2; 2Th_3:12) to mean ‘settled down, undisturbed, not unruly.’ A different word (sigaō) means ‘to be silent, to say nothing’ (cf. Luk_18:39; 1Co_14:34).” (1)
We can also look to the meeting practices of the ancient church for additional insight into these verses. For instance, seating arrangements were likely segregated by gender during that time. This meant that a husband and wife typically sat apart from one another whenever the church gathered for worship. This arrangement undoubtedly led to issues for women who sought to learn and grow in their faith.
The liberty that Christianity offered women who had previously been denied the opportunity to learn would surely lead to many questions. If a wife wished to communicate with her husband on a point raised during a sermon, she would have to do so by raising her voice and disrupting the teacher’s message. This may account for a similar admonition from Paul the Apostle in the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians…
“the women should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak. Rather, let them be in submission, as in fact the law says. If they want to find out about something, they should ask their husbands at home, because it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church” (1 Corinthians 14:34-35 NET).
So we can view “they are not allowed to speak” (NIV) as a prohibition on the distracting and disrespectful practice of interrupting a teacher’s message. In keeping with the requirement that everything is to be done decently and in order within the church (1 Corinthians 14:40), Paul instructed that such discussions should take place at home and not during the church service. This aligns with the definition of the word translated “quiet” or “silent” in this passage, a word that references a state of “…tranquility arising from within, causing no disturbance to others.” (2)
(1) John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, Bible Knowledge Commentary [1 Timothy 2:11-12]
(2) G2272 hesuchios Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words © 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers