“A woman must learn quietly with all submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man. She must remain quiet” (1 Timothy 2:11-12 NET).
We are now approaching a point where we must choose a direction concerning the leadership roles and responsibilities afforded to men and women within the church. As we consider our response to these verses, we can draw upon the principle mentioned earlier in Acts 20:27 and seek to employ the entire counsel of God.
For instance, there are other portions of Scripture that lead us to conclude that the statement, “…I do not permit a woman to teach” cannot be used to universally exclude a woman from a teaching ministry or a similar role. One such example is found in Acts 18:24-26 where we find that a woman named Priscilla (along with her husband Aquila) taught a man named Apollos the way of God “more accurately.”
We can also turn to the recipient of this letter to support this idea: Timothy. Timothy’s introduction to the things of God undoubtedly came through the ministries of two women. Their identities are given to us in 2 Timothy 1:3-5 and 2 Timothy 3:14-15: his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice.
The late Biblical scholar Norman Geisler also provides some additional insight on this passage…
“…whatever Paul may have meant by the ‘women be silent’ passages, he certainly did not mean that they should have no ministry in the church. This is clear for several reasons. For one thing, in the same book (of 1 Corinthians), Paul instructed women on how they should pray and prophesy in the church, namely, in a decent and orderly way (cf. 11:5).
Further, there were also times when all the men were to be ‘silent’ as well, namely, when someone else was giving an utterance from God (cf. 14:28). Finally, Paul did not hesitate to use women to assist him in the ministry, as is indicated by the crucial role he gave to Phoebe in delivering to its destination the great epistle to the Romans (Rom. 16:1).” (1)
To universally exclude women from any teaching position would also preclude the valuable contributions made by contemporary teachers such as Mary Jo Sharpe, Natasha Crain, and many others. So how should we approach this passage in an appropriate and God-honoring manner? Well, we find a clue to the context of this directive within the passage itself and we’ll consider that aspect of this verse next.
(1) Geisler, N. L., & Howe, T. A. (1992). When critics ask : a popular handbook on Bible difficulties (pp. 496–499). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.